The old vertically integrated industrial giants are gone, replaced by supply chains. And as a result, the transfer-pricing smoke and mirrors have gone as well, and we can begin to see where real profits are made. Some years ago, a Taiwanese take on this was that the potential for profits was concentrated at the ends of the supply chain (in R&D and product design, and in dealing with end customers ) with no room for profits in actually making things.
Apple’s cash mountain would seem to indicate that designing things and outsourcing their actual production can work very nicely, thank you. With manufacturing jobs leaving China over the last few years as the workers there have become too expensive, you would have to live with pay of $1-2 per hour to get lost factory jobs back.
In the midst of this, of course, the city and county are attempting to attract “advanced manufacturing” businesses. Businesses that, to even have a hope of competing globally, will be employing as few people as possible as cheaply as possible and replacing even those jobs with robots as fast as possible — whatever conditions are attached to the grants and incentives they are gifted. Using our tax money to compete with nearly every other city in the country to attract those companies is unlikely to end well.
If you are frightened of the future, seeing Western North Carolina promoted as “Silicon Mountain” will seem a stretch. But this isn’t about you. This is about trying to make a brighter future for our kids. Looking for creative businesses that don’t require raw materials to be shipped in and products to be shipped out means that we can minimize our greatest weakness while working on our strengths. In addition to a new approach to attracting businesses, we would need to build a whole new infrastructure — better educational opportunities for our kids, startup-friendly office space, more and bigger angel syndicates and venture capital funds just for a start.
If the rich folk feel that they are being unfairly excluded from the city’s future, here is their chance. The adventurous ones could invest in angel and VC funds while the more risk-averse could stick with their familiar property speculation and finance office buildings for startups.
Instead, of course, they scuttled off to Raleigh to find themselves a bunch of lickspittles willing to coerce the city into a gerrymandered Council and policies to further entrench our unsustainable economy with its starvation wages and property speculation.
Until the bubble bursts and we are left with just the starvation wages. And a $75 million debt to repay.
— Geoff Kemmish