MARIETTA - With the national unemployment rate continuing to hover near the 8 percent mark, bringing jobs and businesses back to the United States is a focus for legislators and local residents.
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, is co-sponsoring the Bring Jobs Home Act aimed at restoring economic growth through tax credits for businesses that return to the U.S. and eliminating tax deductions for outsourcing.
"This is about replacing outsourcing with reshoring. Our tax policy should encourage companies to return to the United States, and discourage them from ever leaving," Brown said.
Calling the bill, which was proposed to the Senate Committee on Finance on May 8, a carrot and stick approach, Brown said it would provide a new tax break equal to 20 percent of the cost associated with moving operations to the U.S.
It would also eliminate a current tax law that allows companies to claim moving personnel and company assets to foreign countries as a business expense.
"It's obviously a good thing to get (jobs) back in the U.S. It's also important to keep them here," said Michael Lyons, 52, of Marietta.
However, there is some question as to how many jobs the change could bring to the states, given that the majority of jobs lost in the U.S. don't head overseas.
Since 2000, the United States has lost 5.7 million manufacturing jobs overall, according to a study by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation.
A January study by the National Science Board says the U.S. lost 687,000 advanced manufacturing jobs in areas like the auto industry overseas, and 28 percent of all manufacturing jobs to foreign markets between 2000 and 2010.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, each year between 2008 and 2010, less than 5 percent of jobs lost in the United States were due to relocation.
In the past two years, more than 400,000 manufacturing jobs have been created and production has increased by 5.7 percent on an annualized basis since June 2009, according to the White House.
"We've begun to grow jobs, almost every quarter since 2010, but not nearly enough," Brown said. "That's why the manufacturing loss from that one decade has weakened communities and blindsided families across our state."
U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Ohio, said the legislation isn't enough.
"I share Senator Brown's goal in wanting to bring jobs back to the United States," he said. "However, we need to make America open for business once again by addressing the root problem, which is America's high and anti-competitive corporate tax rate - the highest in the industrialized world."
Johnson is a sponsor of the Tax Code Termination Act, which he says would make tax rules fairer and simpler.
The Bring Jobs Home Act is currently in discussion with the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance, said Lauren Kulik, press secretary for Brown's office.
U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., introduced the bill with Brown as an original co-sponsor.
While most area residents say they like the idea of the bill, the practicality could be a challenge, particularly given how many businesses have shipped operations overseas.
"In theory it's a great idea, practice is a different thing," said Jeff Spear, 49, of Marietta. "The barn door's been open a long time."
The concept of the tax break to entice businesses to return to America draws support locally.
"I am all for them bringing jobs back to America, and if it takes a tax break here and there, that's fine," said June Edgell, 54, of Pinehurst.
Ohio is the third largest manufacturing state in the nation, and stands to benefit from the bill, Brown said.
The senator used the example of Apex Sports LLC, a company that manufactures softballs in Zanesville, to prove that there are more companies returning to Ohio. Apex Sports used to manufacture its softballs in China, Brown said.
But Spear and Gene Noe, 65, of Williamstown, both questioned whether or not businesses will actually capitalize on the credit.
"It they're making money over there, and not in the U.S., 20 percent is not going to get them to come back," Noe said.
Spear agreed, but said even without businesses returning the secondary aspect of the bill could boost Ohio's economy.
"You might be able to stop more businesses from going overseas," Spear said. "I just think they've waited too long (to address outsourcing)."