Friday, April 26, 2013

Avoid the great American shutdown

President Calvin Coolidge said, “The business of America is business,” but he could never have dreamed of where that idea would lead.
    Today’s businesses need more than presidential proclamations. They need a sophisticated business infrastructure to bring together investors, customers, materials and workers. They need a supportive government.
    Those doing business in the Wood River Valley know how important it is for people to fly directly and comfortably into Hailey. But in order to continue to meet the needs of the Sun Valley area’s customers, local air operations need the support of government. What the area certainly does not need is an air traffic system snarled by delays and cancellations that are the result of sequester-mandated cuts in federally supported air traffic control operations.
    Air traffic control towers are one of the pieces necessary for Idaho not only to maintain a vibrant tourist business, but also to have jobs and opportunities on the cutting edge of technology. The enormity of the consequences of the sequester-mandated cuts in federal aviation operations become clear if one looks east to the Idaho National Laboratory and the city of Idaho Falls.
    Since the start of the current fiscal year, contractor Battelle Energy Alliance and INL employees have flown more than 2,000 trips into and out of the Idaho Falls airport. Closing the tower will significantly reduce the capacity of that airport to handle this traffic.
    International Isotopes Inc. manufactures iodine 131 at the INL. The isotope is used for the treatment of thyroid cancer, and International Isotopes is the only U.S. company that distributes it. CEO Steve Laflin wrote in a memo to the city of Idaho Falls that “[b]ecause of the short half-life of the iodine 131 product, any airfreight delays or curtailments could threaten the financial and practical viability of the product.”
    The INL can’t do business without an adequate air transportation system or with poorly kept roadways or poorly educated workers or all of the other government-provided infrastructure that allows companies to do business. Without the INL, Idaho Falls would shrink back to being a small agricultural stop on the way to Yellowstone National Park.
    A healthy business environment requires regulations and infrastructures that allow customers to flow cost-effectively into local markets and products to flow out to distant markets. Those regulations and infrastructure pieces can only be sufficiently coordinated and funded by government.
    Sequestration is not a solution. If government can only cut back, it becomes the enemy of business, and businesses. Communities need government as a partner if we are to avoid the great American shutdown.

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