Two views of the buy-local movement

There's a fine line between supporting local industry and trade protectionism. Case in point: Congressman Maurice Hinchey's effort to give the U.S. solar energy industry a boost may be causing some consternation in Beijing. From the New York Times yesterday:

The military authorization law signed by President Obama on Friday contains a little-noticed “Buy American” provision for the Defense Department purchases of solar panels — a provision that is likely to dismay Chinese officials as President Hu Jintao prepares to visit the United States next week...

...Representative Maurice Hinchey, Democrat of New York, said he had fought for the provision to be included in the bill.

“We’ve had a lot of money taken out of this country and invested in other places around the world, particularly China, and particularly in alternative energies,” he said in an interview by phone. “For them to be producing alternative energy, that’s great, but we need to do it ourselves, and as much of it as possible.”

On a far smaller scale, the Community and Economic Development Committee of the Sullivan County Legislature is hoping to get a buy-local provision enacted to give local businesses an edge in getting county contracts:

There are millions of dollars worth of contracts for goods and services are expended by Sullivan County each year that are necessary to perform essential functions of Sullivan County government.  “the award of such contracts to individuals or entities outside of both Sullivan County and the Hudson Valley at a time when Sullivan County is experiencing an economic downturn and less economic activity than many neighboring regions have achieved tends to exacerbate the economic difficulty currently experienced in Sullivan County,” said Legislator Elwin “Woody” Wood, Chairman of the Community and Economic Development Committee.

"So long as it is within the realm of reason and satisfies our fiduciary responsibilities as elected officials to provide fair and efficient services to our public, then we should absolutely try to do business with those who reside within and pay taxes to our county.  I have seen too many bids go far out of county and even out of state, thus having no economic benefit to our struggling communities.  We are at a time in our economy and our history where we need to shop local as much as possible, not just as a local government, but as individuals.  When business is done locally…jobs are kept and produced and that is a very important for us all to remember," said Legislator David A. Sager, Chairman of the Public Works Committee.