Waukesha mayor issues letter to Gov. Walker, others on Export-Import Bank after GE announcement
WAUKESHA — Waukesha Mayor Shawn Reilly has sent a letter to Governor Scott Walker, House Speaker John Boehner, Waukesha County Executive Paul Farrow, and the Waukesha Common Council — asking for the re-authorization of the U.S. Export-Import Bank. This comes after GE announced on Monday, September 28th that it plans to build a state-of-the-art “Brilliant Factory” in Canada with manufacturing capacity for multiple business lines including its Power & Water, Oil & Gas and Transportation groups. That move would bring an end to the manufacturing of orange gas engines in Waukesha.
It’s a huge blow for the city of Waukesha and 350 workers at its GE Power & Water factory — and it has some, including GE officials, blaming Congress.
The Ex-Im Bank allows foreign governments and companies to get U.S.-backed loans to buy GE products. The U.S. Senate voted in July to reauthorize the program, but Republicans in the U.S. House allowed the program to lapse.
“I am writing today to strongly encourage you to support the re-authorization of the Export/Import Bank. This is an issue that is extremely important to the City of Waukesha, communities throughout the state, and the entire state of Wisconsin. As you are probably aware, General Electric announced this week that it is moving 350 good-paying manufacturing jobs from Waukesha to a new plant to be built in Canada. Obviously, this is terrible news for the City of Waukesha — as one of the city’s longest-tenured manufacturing centers will be idle in approximately 20 months,” Mayor Reilly says in the letter.
The company said on Monday it notified employees in Waukesha and more than 400 U.S. suppliers of its plans. In Wisconsin alone, suppliers generate about $47 million in revenue from the Waukesha plant.
The news came as a surprise to many, especially considering the GE factory in Waukesha was recently the focus of national praise and attention.
It has been 20 months since President Barack Obama came to GE in Waukesha — praising the company.
GE officials are blaming the move on Congress — for failing to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank of the United States. That bank allowed foreign governments and companies to take out loans to buy GE products.
“In many of the markets overseas, we must have that financing in order to even enter negotiations for contracts,” Shaun Wiggins with GE Power & Water in Waukesha said.
Mayor Reilly issued the following statement after the GE announcement:
“I was shocked and dismayed when I learned this morning that General Electric will be eliminating 350 good-paying manufacturing jobs in Waukesha. My hope is that this is not a final decision and I will be able to work with General Electric and our state and federal partners to retain these important jobs here.”
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett has also drafted a letter — his, to Governor Scott Walker — asking that Walker join him in “demanding Congress take the appropriate action to save these jobs, and perhaps, thousands of other Wisconsin jobs.”
Gov. Scott Walker pledged Tuesday (one day after the GE announcement) that state and local officials would have a “unified effort” against General Electric’s plans to eliminate 350 jobs at its Waukesha plant.
“Unfortunately, I think (the jobs) are pawns in a larger political battle being played out in Washington,” Walker said Tuesday, declining to say whether he still believed the Ex-Im Bank should be eliminated.
“I think it’s unwise for any corporation to be making decisions on where they place work based on one particular vote in the Congress,” the governor said.
Earlier this year, while testing the waters for a presidential run, Walker said he favored eliminating the Export-Import Bank, according to multiple news reports.
Congressman Paul Ryan is opposed to the re-authorization of the U.S. Export-Import Bank. A statement from Ryan’s office after the GE announcement reads, in part:
“Congressman Ryan remains opposed to the reauthorization of the Export-Import bank. He feels there are better ways Congress can promote economic growth; rather than continue with corporate welfare, we should be focused on fixing our tax code and reducing burdensome regulations, which are long term solutions to our economic woes.”
About 600 people work at the GE plant in Waukesha. The 350 losing their jobs should get severance and job training. The other 250 will stay within the company.
The plant closure will happen over the next 18 to 32 months.