6.8.06

COSMOPOLITANS. These blue-collar aristocrats, metalworkers for Milwaukee's In-Place Machining, will go anywhere.

Apart from a cowboy-like spirit of adventure, what keeps In-Place workers competitive are their well-worn passports - their tickets to the global economy. In-Place makes them a condition of employment.

The passports put them in a distinct minority. According to the U.S. State Department, 25% of Americans own passports. While that number has risen in recent years, it lags the 39% of Canadians, 40% of Germans and 70% of British who have passports.

That gives In-Place an edge in a nation that struggles to connect with the 95% of the world's population that lives outside the U.S. According to the Commerce Department, the U.S. runs a chronic trade deficit with nearly every trading region around the globe, exporting 53 cents of goods for every $1 Americans import.

Do we have to have a refresher course on comparative advantage? Someplace has to specialize in the repair of heavy machinery, including formerly classified offshore drilling rigs and gas-turbine generating stations in Kirkuk. (Yes, Kirkuk is in Iraq.) Might as well have it in Milwaukee, where the machine tools and control systems that made the assembly line happen were made.

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