WASHINGTON — It might seem odd that an Omaha congressman would visit businesses in South Carolina, but Rep. Lee Terry was at a Charleston Boeing plant Monday in part because that company pumps millions of dollars into Nebraska.
The Republican congressman said manufacturing is a potential bright spot in the economy, but Congress needs to help the sector become more competitive.
Besides his visit a to Boeing manufacturing plant, Terry was also scheduled to tour the bustling Port of Charleston and chat with local manufacturers.
During a conference call with reporters, Terry said that workers can walk into Boeing and start making $50,000 a year.
“That's great wages,” Terry said.
Those in the steel industry can make $77,000 a year, he said.
“These are real good jobs, and we have to be prepared to make sure that that part of our economy grows,” Terry said.
According to figures from Terry's office, Boeing spent $8 million over the previous year with 24 Omaha suppliers and vendors, everything from businesses that produce industrial parts to a T-shirt shop. Boeing spent more than $21 million at Nebraska businesses overall.
At the start of this Congress, Terry took over as chairman of the House Energy and Commerce's subcommittee on commerce, manufacturing and trade.
Terry said he was hearing familiar complaints from South Carolina business leaders about the burdens of regulations, taxes and the new health care law.
The question, as usual, though is what measures could actually move through Congress.
While Capitol Hill lawmakers remain deeply divided, Terry noted that legislators from both sides of the aisle say they want to help to create manufacturing jobs.
He said that House Minority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., is talking about comprehensive legislation related to manufacturing. The two have talked on the House floor and plan to meet in the coming months, Terry said.
One area ripe for cooperation, Terry said, is to cut the time it takes businesses to obtain various permits.
“Those types of delays from being able to expand your businesses to meet the current needs … there has to be some way to fast-track those,” Terry said.