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It's Work Creating Jobs, But It's Worth It

State Rep. Dwight Evans talks about the community jobs forum he held in Philadelphia.

Ed. Note: The sign-up period for community job forums has come to a close, look for the final report synthesizing the feedback we got in the coming weeks.

In 1993, Kevin Kline starred in a movie titled "Dave," the story of a temporary employment agency owner and presidential doppelganger who finds himself substituting as the President.

Despite its comedic wrapper, the movie's theme emphasized that Kline’s character Dave Kovic was a man who believed in the dignity of work, whether finding people jobs from his storefront office or from the Oval Office.

Kovic, the temp agency owner, would beg and cajole his contacts to hire people, and when successful, would exclaim, “It’s Monday. Everybody works on Monday.”

Kovic, as the President, was poignant, but no less emphatic.

"If you've ever seen the look on somebody's face the day they finally get a job… they look like they could fly. And it's not about the paycheck, it's about respect, it's about looking in the mirror and knowing that you've done something valuable with your day. And if one person could start to feel this way, and then another person, and then another person, soon all these other problems may not seem so impossible. You don't really know how much you can do until you stand up and decide to try."

President Roosevelt understood that very notion in 1935 when the Federal Work Progress Administration was formed to provide jobs to unemployed Americans.

I don’t disagree. As a legislator whose background is rooted in education and job training, I believe creating jobs is the single most important effort this nation can put forth if we are to move forward as a country and a world economy.

President Obama put the issue of jobs at the forefront of his domestic agenda with a White House Summit, a visit to Allentown, Pennsylvania and new federal job creation strategies. His call for smaller summits across the country is the catalyst for raising the level of dialogue and stimulating public discourse at the grass roots level.

In Philadelphia, we answered the President's call when more than 100 people gathered for a Regional Jobs Summit to talk about creating jobs in Southeastern Pennsylvania. The participants represented business, industry, labor, education, and government.

I am encouraged so many citizens embraced this exercise and the discussions continue in Philadelphia, in other regions of the state, and most importantly, at the State Capitol in Harrisburg where my committee will hold a statewide Jobs Summit on February 28.

Business organizations are conducting their own meetings, as are local development agencies. Executives are talking to each other about fostering entrepreneurship and increasing access to capital. And we’re all wrestling with corporate and public policy ideas that will help us grow the economy and businesses so jobs will be plentiful.

As the conversation gets louder across the state, my hope is that we build on the key themes that emerged from the Philadelphia Regional Jobs Forum.  Foremost is the need to be active, not passive. America’s financial crisis is as much of a civic crisis as it is an economic crisis. The collective willpower of government, business, industry, education, labor and our civic institutions must work together as we forge a new path to prosperity. This is a community conversation.

We can't operate in a vacuum. Business and industry need to work in tandem with our educational institutions to insure the pool of applicants is appropriately skilled for the jobs that are created. In our region, the manufacturing jobs of yesterday have given way to the hospitality and bio-medical jobs of tomorrow and our training programs need to reflect this new reality.

Finally, we all need to understand that government cannot create jobs, but it can create policies – for example government backed loans – that take the pressure off banks and encourage small business to keep workers and add more. We must learn to support entrepreneurs by creating an environment that rewards risk and innovation.

It will be a challenge, no doubt.  But we really don't know what we can do until we stand up and try.

Dwight Evans, D-Philadelphia, is Chairman of the Pennsylvania State House Appropriations Committee