In February 1941, Prime Minister Winston Churchill stood in front of a British Broadcasting Corp. microphone to deliver one of his regular addresses. His listeners were the people of Britain, but his audience was President Franklin Roosevelt.

Churchill, as leader of a besieged and alone United Kingdom, needed help to survive in the early days of World War II. During those trying days, and during that broadcast, Churchill asked not that the United States take up Britain’s wartime burden, but that the United States offer the assistance required for Britain to bear the burden on its own.

In his famous words, Churchill said, “Give us the tools and we will finish the job.” One month later, the Congress of the United States passed the Lend Lease Act that supplied Britain with those tools.

Today, as the business community of the United States reels from an unprecedented global economic slowdown, it looks to the incoming administration of President-elect Barack Obama for a similar partnership.

There is no doubt as to our mutual burden – clean up the financial mess; create jobs; address societal health, energy and environmental needs; invest in our communities; retain our international competitiveness; and return value to those that invest in us.

Working with President-elect Obama, we must move quickly to deploy the right tools for American business to undertake and finish that job.

First, we need a tax system that rewards and encourages investment in new technologies and new industries such as alternative energy and alternative transportation.

Companies like Dow Corning use the current federal research and development tax credit to spur research into cutting-edge products and technologies – as do almost 18,000 other American firms.

Yet, that tax provision is temporary – it is in effect only until the end of 2009. This 13-month time frame is not long enough to provide the planning and continuity needed to truly take advantage of this otherwise most useful provision.

Moreover, the provision is too narrow. It does not cover investments in manufacturing facilities – existing or potential. Without a focus on the “bricks and mortar” as well as on research and development – the key goal of domestic job creation cannot be achieved.

Second, the United States needs to provide the help needed to train workers to meet the employment demands of this century. We know, sadly, that the industries that carried America to industrial greatness in the last century will not be the ones to sustain that greatness this century.

I have seen in my own state of Michigan proud industries and companies close factories and shed workers. These productive citizens need help to transition to the jobs of the future, many of which can and will be found in the new technologies and new industries.

There is a tool to help achieve this goal. The Green Jobs Workforce Investment Fund became law in 2007. It is a federal program to train workers for gainful employment in the renewable energy and energy efficiency sectors of our economy. It links, through competitive grants, community colleges, labor unions, the private sector and other organizations so they can provide the training needed to unemployed or displaced workers.

This program has never been adequately funded. Envisioned to help 20,000 to 30,000 new workers each year at yearly expenditure of $125 million, it has been funded at less than 25 percent of that level.

The losers are those many otherwise skilled workers who form a ready and otherwise able talent pool for this growing industrial sector. Congress should fully fund this program.

Third, we must invest in and promote career and technical education. As a nation, we spend billions of dollars on education at all levels.

As great as our education system is, and as well regarded as our institutions of higher learning are, we find that far too often our workers are not prepared – in math, in science, in technical skills – to assume their rightful places in the new workforce. Increased emphasis on these building blocks of learning will help us be more competitive in the world economy.

Sixty-seven years ago when the Congress passed the Lend-Lease Act, it enacted legislation that required something from Britain.

In return for the tools, Britain provided the United States with military bases in this hemisphere enhancing our security – the bricks and mortar if you will. Britain repaid, over time, hundreds of millions of dollars in loans granted by the act – a clear return on investment.

American business now looks to the Obama administration for the same kind of vision and support. A program to ignite the American business community’s economic engine – centered on financial incentives, worker training and education – will, I am confident, pay the same broad based dividends to America as did the Lend Lease nearly 70 years ago. Provide the tools and together the public and private sectors of America can finish the job.

Stephanie A. Burns is the chairman, president and chief executive officer of the Dow Corning Corp. in Midland, Mich.

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