Ask David Green, president and CEO of Physical Sciences Inc., how partisan politics in Washington has affected his business and he'll tell you it's been a slow three years for the Andover-based defense contractor -- a direct consequence of automatic federal budget cuts known as sequestration.
Sequestration, which allows no discretionary federal spending, has "diminished the opportunities" for the company to secure defense contracts, Green said.
But Green is feeling optimistic about the future after watching U.S. Rep. Niki Tsongas, the Lowell Democrat, and U.S. Rep. Michael Turner, an Ohio Republican, sit side by side to meet with defense industry leaders from across the region on Tuesday.
"I think it's fantastic and so rare today in Washington," Green said of the bipartisan relationship Tsongas and Turner have developed concerning the nation's military readiness and other issues.
Carol Bowen, president and CEO of Materials Systems Inc., a Littleton-based sonar transducer maker, agreed. "They are setting an example."
Tsongas and Turner want to understand each other's point of views and compromise, Bowen said. That kind of "willingness to lead and govern" is what's been missing in Washington, she added.
"I wish 400 other Congress people could follow their examples," Green said.
Roots of partnership
Bowen, Green and more than 40 other top officials from Massachusetts, including CEOs from big and small companies, got to witness first-hand the Tsongas-Turner collaboration.
Tsongas and Turner, who both serve on the House Armed Services Committee, listened closely and pledged to build on their bipartisan partnership to strengthen the nation's security through innovative programs.
In what might have been a first among Congress' 534 members this election season, the pair spoke of the merits of an exchange of visits to each other's district.
On Monday, Turner hosted Tsongas' tour of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, which sits at the heart of Turner's 10th Congressional District. On Tuesday, it was Tsongas' turn to host Turner. They visited Boston-based shoemaker New Balance's manufacturing facility on South Union Street in Lawrence, attended the defense sector roundtable at UMass Lowell, and toured Hanscom Air Force Base and MIT's Lincoln Labs.
Turner, the former mayor of Dayton, Ohio, was first elected to Congress in 2003. His father worked as a union laborer at General Motors. He holds two post-graduate degrees, an MBA from the University of Dayton and a law degree from Case Western University School of Law. He serves as the chairman of the House Armed Services Tactical Air and Land Forces Subcommittee, which oversees ammunition programs, Army and Air Force acquisition programs, Navy and Marine Corps aviation programs, National Guard and Army and Air Force National Guard and Reserve.
Tsongas was elected to Congress in 2007 to represent Massachusetts' Fifth District -- now the Third District -- in a special election to fill Marty Meehan's seat. Her father was an Air Force Colonel and her early upbringing took place on military bases in Europe and the United States. Her background led her to seek a seat on the House Armed Services Committee where she met Turner. Like Turner, she holds a law degree.
Sharing common goals
Turner and Tsongas have forged collaborative relationship over the years while tackling together the issues surrounding sexual assaults in the military. Working toward a common goal has produced a "tremendous reform" of the system, Tsongas said at the roundtable.
Turner said their solutions often satisfied people on both sides of the political aisle.
"Bipartisanship is not just an exercise. It's an enhancement of products," Turner said.
Tsongas said she believes making sure men and women in uniform are fully prepared when sent to war zones is a "moral issue."
Tsongas said even though she and Turner have differences in opinions over some issues, they are committed to working together.
Calling it a refreshing breath of air from Washington's political gridlock and divisiveness, officials at the UMass Lowell roundtable welcomed the unified front.
"The most difficult thing about the Congress is how partisan it has become over the past decade or so," UMass Lowell Chancellor Meehan said. "It's fabulous that they are working together."
Tsongas and Turner said the tour exchange has made them better understand how Hanscom and Wright-Patterson often cooperate to address various needs for the military.
Military needs upgrades
Turner told officials that sequestration has "significantly impacted the readiness" of the military. He said the defense budget should remain flat through fiscal 2015 but he is hopeful funding will increase starting in 2016. He cited the need for modernizing equipment and developing new weaponry and systems to serve the military's future challenges.
Tsongas trumpeted Massachusetts' ecosystem for cutting-edge technologies that are crucial to the nation's defense system. There are 130,000 people working for 2,500 Bay State companies providing services to the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security, she said.
"It's been important in this exchange to see how similar our communities are with respect to research, development, science and technology, and our communities are working in collaboration on a number of various (aspects)," Turner said.
Green couldn't agree more. He said Physical Sciences Inc. has a wholly-owned subsidiary in Turner's Ohio district providing services to Wright-Patterson.
Meehan said the House Armed Services Tactical Air and Land Forces Subcommittee is an influential one and that Tsongas is wise to work with Turner, a member of the majority party, who chairs it.
"He has a better understanding of the role that Massachusetts plays in defense research and development" than some others, Meehan said of Turner.
The importance of research and development was highlighted during the lawmakers' visit to New Balance. It featured the company's made-in-America products, including the 950v2 light-weight footwear designed for U.S. military use. Teams of science professionals analyze data on athletes' feet movements to design the shoe, said Trampas Tenbroek, New Balance's manager of sports research.
Brendan Melly, director of domestic manufacturing, said global sales for New Balance products in Japan, Korea and China have soared from $1.78 billion in 2010 to $2.39 billion in 2012.
"Made-in-America means something outside the country," Tsongas said. Turner said he couldn't be happier with the results, saying it might spark other U.S. companies to manufacture products at home instead of overseas.
Both Meehan and Green said the partnership between Tsongas and Turner could prompt others to follow in their footsteps.
Green captured the sentiments of most other business leaders when he said working together is the only way by which America can accomplish things.
"Doing nothing is not the way America succeeds," Green said.
Follow Hiroko Sato on Twitter @satolowellsun.