“Make: An American Manufacturing Movement,” a recent product of the US Council on Competitiveness, addresses problems that plague the American economy. By developing appropriate solutions, it provides a 21st century blueprint.

Historians and biographers have characterized Benjamin Franklin’s life in many ways – founding father, international diplomat, philosopher and postmaster.
He’s also known as an inventor: He developed the bifocal lens. Sure, it’s not a glamorous invention—who wants to admit that they need bifocals?—but it proved a key part of America’s inventiveness, which became a long-standing tradition.

From Franklin to Henry Ford, the United States claims some of the world’s most influential inventors and innovations. Indeed, Franklin’s bifocal lens paved the way for other technologies that gave rise to a thriving global eyewear industry.

The makes it crystal clear: The nation must never lose sight of its heritage. As the United States enters the 21st century—an era already defined by global social, intellectual, and technological advances—it must continue to foster the spirit that made it a world leader.

The Modern View
Throughout history, manufacturing has been perceived as an economic stimulator. It also has been viewed as dumb, dangerous and dirty. That was then, this is now. Viewed through the modern lens, manufacturing is seen as smart, safe and sustainable – and it is surging at just the right time: when the United States is recovering from an economic catastrophe that rivals the Great Depression in terms of national and global impact. Manufacturing has always been the cornerstone of successful development and distribution, and it will remain so for the foreseeable future.

Since 2000, emerging markets’ share of global foreign direct investment has risen from 20 percent to more than half in 2011, with the United States, India, Brazil, Russia, and the United Kingdom being the top investment destinations. Modern manufacturing and innovation spans more social and cultural boundaries than ever before, and ever-changing and converging international trade has focused global attention on manufacturing as the cornerstone of economic prosperity.

Mission: Made in America
“Make: An American Manufacturing Movement” is a recent product of the US Council on Competitiveness’ flagship US Manufacturing Competitiveness Initiative (USMCI). The USMCI mission is to continue the legacy and encourage the proliferation of American manufacturing. In recent years, the US economy has been plagued by a debilitating housing crisis, astronomical national debt, increased competition from emerging markets, and record levels of unemployment, among other problems.

The “Make” compilation of recommendations—released in December 2011 and developed by leaders in industry, academia, labor, and national laboratories—points to ways to strengthen American manufacturing. “Make” addresses five important challenges and solutions and is designed to act as a catalyst for igniting an American manufacturing renaissance.

Five Challenges
“Make” delineates five challenges and the most appropriate solutions:

  • Challenge: Fueling investments in the innovation and production economy from start-up to scale-up
    Solution: Enact fiscal reform, transform tax laws, regulations and other structural costs to spur investment, ramp up production, capitalize growth companies, and create skilled jobs
  • Challenge: Expanding US exports, reducing the trade deficit, increasing market access and responding to foreign governments protecting domestic producers
    Solution: Create fair and open global markets for US goods and services to reduce the trade deficit and increase exports as a percentage of GDP
  • Challenge: Harnessing the power and potential of American talent to win the future skills race
    Solution: Prepare the next generation of innovators, researchers, and highly skilled workers
  • Challenge: Transforming the industrial base to smart manufacturing and innovation networks to spur next-generation productivity
    Solution: Create national advanced manufacturing networks and partnerships, prioritize R&D investments, and deploy new tools, technologies and facilities.
  • Challenge: Optimizing and integrating next-generation supply networks with advanced logistics
    Solution: Develop and deploy smart, sustainable and resilient energy, transportation, production, and cyber infrastructures

Future View
These recommendations cover the most important issues facing the broader American manufacturing industry and give credence to the idea that manufacturing is still a principal force behind American competitiveness. The growth of emerging markets is fueled in large part by cheap labor, the low-margin commoditization of products, and harmful policies in the United States. “Make” recognizes these shifts and has focused on the aforementioned challenges and solutions to ensure that American manufacturing remains competitive.

Policymakers must make the choice to invest in the future of our workforce and economic stability. History has shown that when faced with new policies and innovations, Americans have adapted and thrived. From Franklin D. Roosevelt’s creation of the “New Deal” to the rapid growth of the Internet, our leaders have cemented America’s position as a nation of innovators.

Take-home Point
Opportunities identified by “Make” can only be realized if workforce is sufficiently trained and educated on new technologies. There must be partnerships between public officials and private sector leaders in academia and manufacturing to ensure that jobs stay home.

“Make: An American Manufacturing Movement” is simply what its name reads: a movement, developed to encourage a return to a more durable, preeminent position for American manufacturing and the nation’s economy. For a free copy of “Make,” visit the Council on Competitiveness’ website at www.compete.org.


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