Jobs surge, over there | Dec. 29
Cost of doing business is too high
As a 35-year human resources executive, here's my perspective on why jobs are moving overseas.
Businesses are expected to pay ever-increasing costs for employee benefits including health, disability, life, dental and vision. In Florida we compete with local and other government entities whose benefits packages are unreasonably expensive to the private sector, and this doesn't even address the inequities seen in the pension plans. Taxpayers funding such rich benefits when they do not enjoy the same doesn't make sense.
Then there are the workers' compensation and unemployment compensation costs an employer must pay. We all know that fraud is rampant in workers' compensation claims. And unemployment compensation is considered an entitlement program when in reality it is an employer tax. That tax has doubled or more in the last few years.
Finally there is the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and human rights departments. Claimants can level a charge without cost or consequence. Employers know they need a labor law attorney and frequently settle as a "cost of doing business" even when no discrimination occurred.
These are some of the reasons why employers look to establish a business base abroad. Add to that foreigners who are well educated, hard working and eager to do a good job.
Instead of just addressing the fact that this is happening, why not support reforms to level the playing field here? Over the years I have seen unreasonable burdens placed on employers so that it's no wonder they have looked abroad.
Cherie Haigley, St. Petersburg
Jobs surge, over there | Dec. 29
Companies must provide more training for workers
Kudos to the Times for this article. I was surprised to see a couple of points that have been ignored or at least seldom mentioned by the media.
First, Columbia University's Jeffrey Sachs says, "What's changed is that companies today are getting top talent in emerging economies, and the U.S. has to really watch out." The article also mentions Jabil Circuit's hiring in Shanghai and innovations such as an "engineers-in-training program."
U.S. companies do not do enough mentoring and encouraging growth in their employees. If you already have a bachelor's degree, they'll mentor and offer tuition assistance. I'm talking about the lower-level employees who have a high school diploma or two-year degree. Companies should ensure that there is assistance and a path from the mail room to the executive offices if an employee should choose to take it.
The article also said that a key factor in the runaway international growth is the rise of the middle class in the emerging countries. In the United States, despite widespread reporting of increased productivity per worker, there has been little "trickle down" of the increased profits. All of which leads to the often reported opinion that business leaders have lost legitimacy in the eyes of 95 percent of the public.
Roger DePauw, New Port Richey
Do rail right or not at all
In your Dec. 25 article, Tampa Bay residents support high-speed train, but not light rail, you quoted a 74-year-old retiree who has more of a clue about what form and direction local rail efforts should take than all of the so-called experts.
He said: "The rail system proposed in November's election should have gone into areas where people commute to downtown for work, such as the Dale Mabry corridor, Westchase and New Tampa."
To state it more specifically, Tampa Bay needs an elevated regional metro system — not light rail mixed with vehicular traffic or CSX freight trains.
The current track (pun intended) is simply to copy some other city's dowdy, slow-moving light-rail line instead of designing a system tailored to this region's existing traffic corridors, development patterns and climate.
An elevated line would provide ultimate flexibility for routing along existing major arteries with lots of destinations for local riders, as well as efficient routing for express service. Visibility and separation from vehicular traffic would allow higher speeds and would likely entice drivers stuck in traffic below to use the system.
No one county should be planning a system in a vacuum. A seamless system that crosses the bay and links major activity centers would have a far larger ridership than disjointed county-by-county systems.
We must demand a system that lots of people will want to use. Rail naysayers need to think beyond next week and realize we need to change our ways, because gasoline is headed beyond $5 per gallon. Please, do it right or don't do it at all.
Bud Wills, Tampa
Broken pipes and tight budgets | Dec. 29, editorial
Utilities feel the pinch
Your editorial on the lack of adequate budgets for infrastructure repair is right on. Utilities have been postponing repairs and replacements of infrastructure due to lower revenue. However, this has very little to do with property taxes, as stated in the editorial. Utility budgets run by local governments operate as "enterprise funds," the source of which are utility rates, not property taxes.
Utilities are feeling the pinch of lower revenue not because of lower or stable property tax revenue but due to home foreclosures and other factors. One home foreclosure means one less paying utility customer.
In addition, water conservation and watering restrictions may be the right thing to do, but they also lower revenue. Theoretically, utility rates can be increased to make up for lower revenue and fully fund needed repair and replacement costs, but there is a reluctance to do so when personal budgets are already stressed due to the economy.
David Hagan, Tampa
Charities need better oversight | Dec. 28, editorial
Check charity yourself
Yes, charities need better policing — by donors.
There are tools available to help ordinary donors make wise investments in charitable causes. Some of these tools are even provided by the government through its own evaluation of charities it supports. Charities accepting government money are policed. Annual monitoring visits, certifications and other methods are ways the government polices charities. Most of these documents are also public records.
Guidestar.com and Charity Navigator are two tools that are available and easy to use. First and foremost, visit charities and see them in action. If you can't walk in the door and see the work of a charity firsthand, you owe it to yourself to ask lots of questions and review as much documentation as you can find.
Excellent charities need the help of an educated public to maintain their good reputations. After doing a bit of research, please consider making a gift to a local charity.
Duggan Cooley, Religious Community Services Inc., Clearwater