Second Prize ... Two Evenings with Steve Forbes

The Manufacturers Association of South Central Pennsylvania (MASCPA), headquartered in York, has been led for a decade by Mike Smeltzer, a Tea Party Republican ... who is also a good friend and partner on workforce development issues.

When Mike ran in a Republican Congressional primary in 2010, I offered to emulate suburban Philadelphia Republicans — the "Rendellicans" — who supported Governor Rendell by organizing the "Smelocrats." For some reason, Mike didn't take me up on this offer.

Notwithstanding our friendship, I was still surprised when Mike told me that MASCPA was honoring me as its "Workforce Development Person of the Year." Watch my video acceptance of the award below.

I was even more surprised when I realized that accepting the honor meant I had to spend "An Evening with Steve Forbes."

Turns out that Steve Forbes is an engaging speaker. For example, he delivered deadpan lines about the "young and attractive" people in the audience before pausing to say "that's called pandering." He also peppered his talk with comic routines, from the usefulness of "monetary policy" as a topic for ending a bad date or clearing out the seats next to you in a plane to a riff on the headaches of a barter economy, such as your ATM machine not accepting sheep or giving you the pigs you need for your next deal.

While sold on the idea of money as a means of exchange — and even sharing some of Mr. Forbes technological optimism — I wasn't quite ready to buy into a flat tax or a return to the gold standard.

But a good time was had by all.

Taping the video thank you for the MASCPA award gave me a chance to have some fun and express my respect and warmth towards Mike. One of the admirable things about his association is that it spends most of its energy on helping make its members more productive. Examples include creating a vibrant multi-employer manufacturing apprenticeship now nearly a decade old and managing a manufacturing training consortium (or "Industry Partnership") that addresses a broader range of skill issues.

In the global, network-based innovation economy, America needs a lot more business organizations — and worker associations (i.e., unions) — to have stronger roles in growing the economic pie and not just fighting over how to divide it up. So hats off to MASCPA for being a leader in this respect.

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