Janesville is making the same slow recovery that's typical elsewhere. City manager Eric Levitt said the city has added 1,000 jobs in the past 18 months, usually 50-to-100 at a time at existing employers. To foster that comeback, the city hasn't picked the Republican or the Democratic approach, but is using elements of both.
From the GOP: Streamlined permitting and tax cuts have aided in recruitment of new companies, including a medical technology company attracted by a tax break that could be worth as much as $9 million. The manufacturer of isotopes expects to open a new $24 million facility and employ 160 people in high-wage jobs by 2016.
From Democrats: Federal money for retraining assistance is filling classrooms at local vocational schools and colleges. At Blackhawk Technical College, welding programs that run from dawn until midnight six days a week are packed. That's helping address what city officials see as their biggest challenge: a mismatch between companies' expectations and the skills of those looking for work.
At the Harley-Davidson dealership, Sinks said he'd like the next president to reduce the regulatory burden on small businesses and try to discourage large U.S. companies from outsourcing jobs and manufacturing overseas. But when asked what's allowed him to rebuild his staff to the 50 he employed before GM shut down, he cites a renewed focus on excellent customer service, a new loyalty program and the overall improvement, however slow, in the nation's economy.
"We've tightened up," Sinks said. "We're seeing some light at the end of the tunnel. People who are secure in their jobs are spending money. And that's something I'm seeing today that I haven't seen in years."
Cullen, the Democratic state senator, said the federal government can help only so much, no matter who wins the White House. Cities such as Janesville probably hold their economic fate in their own hands, he said.
"A lot of it is really, truly local economic development effort," he said. "You don't come back from (the plant closing) in three-and-a-half years. Short of a giant home run of a company coming here with 2,000 to 3,000 jobs, which is kind of a pipe dream these days, it's going to be a slow slog back."
Associated Press Auto Writer Tom Krisher in Detroit and AP writer Kasie Hunt in Washington contributed to this report.
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