The President of the National Association of Manufacturers yesterday proposed creating a light-industry trade zone for Baltimore and Washington that could provide jobs for many unemployed workers in the region.
The zone would work much like a foreign trade zone, with certain financial incentives for businesses to move to the area and hire and possibly train unskilled or semiskilled persons.
"America has learned a lot about the social consequences of structural unemployment since the 1960s when this city was among many which erupted in violence," said NAM President Alexander B. Trowbridge in an address before the D.C. Rotary Club.
"One couldn't condone lawbreaking then nor condone it last month when Miami was torn by violence," Trowbridge continued. "But what happened in Miami -- to the extent that it was made worse by jobless citizens leading dead-end lives -- must bring this country quickly to grips with the lessons we should have learned a decade or more ago."
"It will require a lot of initial encouragement and some special incentives which may frighten some, but unless we create the jobs and the climate of opportunity so badly needed in these pockets of hopelessness, we are all too likely to reap the firestorms of frustration and potential violence we have seen before," Trowbridge said.
Trowbridge noted that the federal government employs about 33 percent of the work force in Washington area, the service sector hires about 20 percent, 15 percent are in retail trade and about 3 percent are in manufacturing.
Although the area's unemployment rate is relatively low, Trowbridge said the nonwhite unemployment rate last year was 9.3 percent, "nearly three times the rate for whites," and the rate for nonwhite youths was 26.6 percent. The unemployment rate for white youths "was too small for a comparable survey sample," Trowbridge said.
For several months the D.C. Department of Economic Development has attempted to attract light industry to the city. One result was that Congress eliminated funding for the city's economic development office because some representatives felt that the office was trying to make the city too industrial.
The city also is attempting to spur interest in the New York Avenue corridor, a suggestion that Trowbridge emphasized yesterday. Economic development officials also have said they are trying to institute financial incentives such as industrial revenue bonds to make relocation in the city more attractive to businesses which have been moving to the suburbs recently.
Trowbridge suggested that the city defer or reduce some taxes and review changes in unemployment compensation taxes, employers' contributions to Social Security taxes and workmen's compensation coverage for the initial start-up to attract light industries.
"Perhaps special accelerated depreciation rates could apply to investments in these zones," Trowbridge added.
Needed lighting, sewerage and water could be installed under grants from the Commerce Department's Economic Development Agency, and special Small Business Administration loans could be used, Trowbridge said.