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For Jack Davis, it's all about saving American jobs

By Howard B. Owens

More than an hour into our chat on Sunday afternoon, Jack Davis looked at my iPhone and said, "That's probably made with Gorilla Glass."

It is.

Davis, founder and president of I Squared R in Akron, then explained that his very first customer was Corning, the inventor of Gorilla Glass.

The recipe for Gorilla Glass -- a very tough, durable type of glass -- sat on a shelf for decades until high-tech electronics such as flat-screen TVs and smart phones needed just such a product.

In order to manufacture the glass, Corning turned to Davis, whose company makes just the kind of silicon carbide heating elements Corning needed to start manufacturing Gorilla Glass for Apple and other companies.

When it came time to ship the elements, Dave found out they were going to Japan.

"It broke my heart," Davis said. "We don’t make those (iPhones) here, we don’t make the TVs, we don’t make flat screens. (The elements are) just another product we ship over there and they can back engineer it and that business will be gone."

Jack Davis is making his fourth attempt at winning a seat in Congress -- this time to replace Shirtless Chris Lee in a NY-26 special election -- for one reason, and one reason only: To save American jobs.

"We have to grow, dig or manufacture to produce wealth," Davis said. "Unless you do that, you’re just growing your debt. We have to make everything we use or consume."

Davis knows Batavia and knows what losing a manufacturing base can do to a community. Among his company's early customers were Sylvania and Doehler Jarvis.

"Batavia has been hit like many of the industrial cities have been," Davis said. "You have a lot of farms, but you did have a big manufacturing base.

"Cities and communities that have lost the jobs are a lot more receptive to my message of saving jobs and getting out of those free trade agreements," he added.

Davis isn't against all trade with foreign countries. He just thinks it should be fair trade. If we trade with another country, he said, that country should buy as much product from the U.S. as we buy from them. If not, they get slapped with a tariff on the difference.

A tariff that targets trade imbalance, he said, would address the uncompetitive practices of countries such as China, where the Yuan is artificially lowered by 40 percent against the dollar.

“Give the guy down the street a 40-percent advantage on you and you’re screwed," Davis said.

On top of that, the Chinese government gives its own corporations tax breaks not available to U.S. manufacturers and labor is 1/20th the cost that in the United States.

The U.S. needs to level the playing field, Davis said.

"There are plenty of entrepreneurs left in this country," Davis said. "Right now they're spending money overseas, rather than in this county, but if given a level playing field, they will come back."

Bring up just about any topic with Davis, and the conversation soon turns back to jobs and fair trade.

Asked about how he could help counties such as Genesee address its crumbling infrastructure problem, he said the solution is jobs, just as it is for most of the problems in the United States.

"Obama shouldn’t be talking about cutting services and increasing taxes," Davis said. "He should be addressing this trade imbalance. We have about $2 billion per day going overseas. That’s our wealth going off shore. Until that’s addressed, we’re going to continue to have problems, problems with Social Security, problems with Medicare, problems with the budget, problems with the deficit."

And if that wealth continues to flow overseas, Davis said, eventually China is going to own the United States.

"I’m a patriot. I love America," Davis said. "I see what’s happening to it. I think  what kind of future are we leaving our children? We’ve got a $14 trillion national debt, half of it’s owed to the Asians, and if we’re not manufacturing anything, we have no way to pay this debt, so they’re going to own America."

He says once the Chinese own all the multinational companies, they'll also own all the lobbyists in Washington.

“We already know (the government) is for sale to the highest bidder and the Chinese are going to have all the money," he said.

Davis came to his anti-unfettered trade position through 56 years of working in international trade, he said, and seeing more and more companies that he did business with shipping jobs overseas.

He didn't think, and still doesn't believe, that's a sustainable path for the United States.

And he doesn't buy the pro-free trade arguments that globalization of trade benefits the United States, too. The U.S. won't have anything to trade, he points out, if all of the manufacturing plants -- as 53,000 of them have already done -- keep shutting down.

In pointing to my iPhone, he raised the issue that even new technology depends on products manufactured in the United States. His heating elements are used not only for Gorilla Glass, but for manufacturing all sorts of flat glass, from window panes in skyscrapers to the windshields of cars as well as an essential tool for manufacturing solar cells.

The high-tech industry needs a strong manufacturing base in the United States to remain competitive globally.

"There was one guy, I think he was with the Commerce Department, who said there’s no difference between computer chips and potato chips and I’m like, 'Man, how stupid can you be?'" Davis said.

Davis believes both the Republicans and Democrats are selling out the United States. Both parties are beholding to the multinational corporations and even big labor -- traditionally a stalwart in the Democratic corner protecting American jobs -- has sold out the American worker. Their national leaders in Washington, he said, are more interested in organizing in foreign countries now.

"The managers for these large multinationals, they’re not loyal to America," Davis said. "They’re loyal to their stockholders and they’ll just take their business to the cheaper place to manufacture with no thought of American workers. They have all the advantages of being in America, but they’re not taking care of it."

Toward the end of our conversation, Davis talked more about the campaign. 

He is disappointed most of all in the Republicans.

He said he registered Republican when he first could vote. He's voted for Eisenhower, Reagan and both Bushes. He's given the Republicans money, and now they just lie about him.

"To have them come after me so viciously and tell so many lies about me, it was a big, big disappointment," he said. 

"I always thought they were the integrity party," he added. "They’re the party of the thugs. They even sent a thug after me."  (A reference to Jane Corwin's chief of staff, Michael Mallia, harassing Davis following a veterans' event in Greece, allegedly calling the former Marine a "coward" (a charge the Corwin campaign has made no attempt to refute.))

But even as some polls show Davis losing ground and coming in third, he's not giving up the fight. It's too important to him. He clearly thinks he's needed in Washington to save American jobs, even if Washington doesn't seem to want him.

"The lobbyists, they don’t want me in Washington, because I’m going to make changes," Davis said. "When I get there, I’ll be one of 435, but I will probably have the biggest mouth. I’m going to call these people out and they don’t like that."

NOTE: We were previously privileged to have Kathy Hochul visit The Batavian. Jane Corwin has been invited numerous times but has pretty much ignored the invitation. Ian Murphy was invited, but said he didn't have a car to make the trip to Batavia.

Ed Gentner

Tommorow we, the voters in NY-26 have a real choice between keeping the status quo that stays the present course by electing either of Democrat or Republican candidate or we the people can opt for the start of a change with a truly independent candidate Jack Davis.....I'm voting for change, I'm voting for jobs, I'm voting for Jack Davis.

May 23, 2011, 8:59am Permalink
George Richardson

Call me Negative George, aka NG420, but I predict a 17% overall turnout and a victory for Jane and Tarzan Corwin.
Most people just don't care, but I do. That's why I am asking for a vicarious vote for Jeff Allen, Joanne Rock and Ian Murphy. I'll need three worthless reprobates like myself to carry a torch that heavy but I have faith in Batavia's Bohemian Subculture. Do me proud, please.

May 23, 2011, 9:24am Permalink
C. M. Barons

Whenever I think of Jack Davis, I am reminded of the movie "Network." ...Not the infamous Howard Beale, mad-as-hell rant.

Faye Dunaway's character is reviewing potential series plot lines.

"These are those four outlines submitted by Universal for an hour series. You needn't bother to read them; I'll tell them to you. The first one is set at a large Eastern law school, presumably Harvard. The series is irresistibly entitled "The New Lawyers." The running characters are a crusty-but-benign ex-Supreme Court justice, presumably Oliver Wendell Holmes by way of Dr. Zorba; there's a beautiful girl graduate student; and the local district attorney who is brilliant and sometimes cuts corners. The second one is called "The Amazon Squad." The running characters include a crusty-but-benign police lieutenant who's always getting heat from the commissioner; a hard-nosed, hard-drinking detective who thinks women belong in the kitchen; and the brilliant and beautiful young girl cop who's fighting the feminist battle on the force. Up next is another one of those investigative reporter shows. A crusty-but-benign managing editor who's always gett..."

Do we need a crusty-but-benign congressman?

May 23, 2011, 1:41pm Permalink
JoAnne Rock

Nice interview Howard. I agree with Mr. Davis regarding his position on free trade agreements, but I think that his over emphasis on manufacturing in a knowledge based global economy is short sighted.

The case for free trade was made in the early 1800's, based on Ricardo's theory of "comparative advantage". It probably made sense then because the major factors of production were not easily moved to other countries. Our growing knowledge based global economy makes it easy for today's vital factors of production - capital, technology and ideas- to be moved around the world at the touch of a button, where they are greeted with an abundance of cheap labor. Globalization has rendered economic policies created centuries ago obsolete, yet we continue to employ them.

Retraining efforts for laid-off workers will not stop knowledge jobs from moving overseas; nor will offering tax incentives to companies that keep American jobs at home, be able to compensate for the enormous wage differentials that continue to drive jobs offshore.

Unless you have a job that requires face-to-face interaction with the consumer, consider your job outsourceable. It's not just manufacturing, but the entire spectrum of jobs in this knowledge based global economy.

MRI's can be sent digitally to be read by doctor's in foreign countries. Surgery can be performed via the internet.

Insourcing of foreign workers via the H1B visa program is another problem. It was intended to spur innovation by recruiting the best and brightest in the world, but it is fraught with abuse. I'm still trying to figure out why the University of Rochester and UB have applied for H1B visas to hire foreign basketball and volleyball coaches. Do we not have qualified Americans for these jobs?

Foreign Trade Zones were intended to "level the playing field", but they have resulted in the unintended consequence of diluting the Made in America brand. Convoluted Rules of Origin (ROO) make it virtually impossible to know what something labeled 'Made in America' really means. President Obama's Buy American Act required government procurement officers to buy American products, but they have since had to reduce the standard to products made with at least 50% US inputs. Waivers continue to pour in to reduce the standard even further.

Economists and policymakers need to begin an honest debate about where our economy is, starting with accurate trade, employment and economic data. Solutions must reflect the new reality, not wishful thinking, if America is to regain her stature.

May 23, 2011, 2:27pm Permalink
C. M. Barons

If the race for the 26th were a Broadway medley:

Corwin Little Buttercup

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Murphy Diogenes

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Davis Guys and Dolls

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Hochul The Fantasticks

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May 23, 2011, 2:31pm Permalink
C. M. Barons

Forgot Jeff Allen- Music Man

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May 23, 2011, 3:03pm Permalink
Howard B. Owens


As with any interview, not everything Jack said is included.

One of the things he talked about was, basically, not everybody is cut out for knowledge-based jobs. People of average intelligence need work, too, as do people who might be very intelligent but simply don't find intellectual stuff interesting and prefer to work with their hands.

A knowledge-based economy needs factory jobs, too.

May 23, 2011, 3:26pm Permalink
Jeff Allen

C.M., I almost fell off my chair laughing. That was the perfect one for me! I often quote it when someone around me uses the word trouble.

May 23, 2011, 3:47pm Permalink
Mike Weaver

Howard, you said exactly what I was thinking as I read JoAnne's post. A knowledge based economy is going to shut out 1/2 maybe even 2/3's of our population. Are the rest expected to be in service industries catering to the 1/3-1/2 cut out for knowledge industry work? That doesn't sound like the path forward for this country to me.

We should continue to promote efforts to lead in research and technology. But it needs to be in support of manufacturing, not a substitute for it.

May 23, 2011, 6:07pm Permalink
JoAnne Rock

I agree with both of you, but we are losing knowledge based jobs through out-sourcing and in-sourcing quicker than we lost manufacturing jobs because the factors of production are easier to move overseas.

Even if Mr. Davis' plan to eliminate free trade agreements worked and manufacturing jobs came back, wouldn't we then be substituting manufacturing jobs for knowledge based jobs? A lost job is still a lost paycheck to someone.

His plan seems to only address the problem of the loss of manufacturing jobs. Americans need a job other than one of consumer of global goods subsidized by own tax dollars. That's just recycling money and does not create wealth, increase GDP or worker productivity.

May 23, 2011, 7:08pm Permalink
Jeremiah Pedro

I agree with Howard. The challenge now is for our industry giants and government to strike a balance between the manufacturing jobs and the knowledge based jobs.

May 23, 2011, 9:17pm Permalink
Howard B. Owens

Joanne, I'm not sure why or how you think it's a zero sum game.

"Fair trade" would protect both knowledge-based on hands-based jobs.

You seem be saying it's an either-or-situation. I don't see it that way. I see it as a both situation.

Clearly, some of us -- myself included -- are not well suited to hands-based jobs. "Manual labor" is not my cup of tea. I've always gravitated toward more creative and intellectual pursuits.

But I have members of my family who are the exact opposite. My grandfather worked in factories his whole life (well, after he stopped driving the dynamite truck for the coal mines in Walsenberg, Colo.). I couldn't imagine him doing anything else, and I loved him for it. He struck me as true to himself.

And I've known young men in my life who are good, honest, decent people but school learning doesn't interest them. They like working on engines or putting things together. If there aren't suitable jobs for those type of people, what's to become of them? How happy are they going to be working as a cart attendent at Walmart, and what kind of family can they raise with that job?

Edmund Burke said every person has a right to enjoy the fruits of his or her own labor, but if we can't work at jobs that are suitable to our individual talents, interests and ability, how can we achieve the right to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness"?

To me, it's not a conservative value to favor the multinationals at the expense of the individual citizen. I believe the government has very limited roles in peoples' lives -- roles that the government often oversteps these days -- but one of those roles is to protect our economic interest, as individuals. The government should not be working actively to thwart the individual's ability to earn a decent living. And that's exactly what trade agreements like NAFTA does.

So, the bottom line is -- our trade and economic policies should be to help harness the power of the American worker to the greatest benefit of the individual, not as a nationalist agenda (which is essentially the Jack Davis approach), but because the individual has certain unalienable rights.

I want to see trade policy that protects those rights, both for the hands workers and the brain workers.

May 23, 2011, 9:38pm Permalink
Jeff Allen

I think a great example of balance would have to be the 60's. We had positive trade offsets the entire decade and arguably the fastest and most impactful growth of technology and innovation due to the space program.

May 23, 2011, 9:51pm Permalink
JoAnne Rock

I don't think it is a zero sum game. I'm not sure where you are getting that from.

I'm all for the elimination of free trade agreements. I thought I said that in my initial post. I certainly don't favor one type of job over another. I agreed with you that we need both hands workers and brain workers.

My only point was that elimination of free trade agreements alone won't bring about the prosperity and jobs that we desire, but it's a step in the right direction.

The million dollar question is: what trade and economic policies would harness the power of the American worker to the greatest benefit of the individual?

Have any in mind?

May 23, 2011, 10:44pm Permalink
Howard B. Owens

I'd only allow free trade with countries that have values and laws consistent with the United States. Everybody else pays tariffs.

May 23, 2011, 11:47pm Permalink

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