The manufacturing sector – not the largest in the US, but the most powerful – faces challenges as it strengthens a troubled nation. Despite Washington’s bombastic rhetoric about manufacturing’s economic impact, the country awaits meaningful action from legislators.
US manufacturing strengthens an economically troubled nation. It demonstrates the highest multiplier effect of any US sector. Each dollar invested generates $1.48 of economic activity. Indeed, national leaders look to manufacturers for answers about economic challenges. The time has come for action upon such answers.
Policymakers have failed to enact the pro-growth policies that manufacturers – and the nation – need. As a result, the US economy has yet to feel the full impact of manufacturing’s dollar-multiplier effect. Job and economic growth rates haven’t grown as fast as they should. Manufacturers are ready to change that.
The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) recent report – “A Growth Agenda: Four Goals for a Manufacturing Resurgence in America” – delineates a comprehensive strategy that promises to bolster the economy, create new jobs, and help guide legislators.
Elements of the four-goal growth plan include:
- Making the United States the best place to manufacture and attract foreign direct investment;
- Making US manufacturers the world’s leading innovators;
- Expanding US access to global markets, to enable manufacturers to reach the 95 percent of consumers living beyond the borders; and
- Fostering access to the skilled, talented workforce that the 21st-century economy demands.
Appropriate Policies Promote Growth
Goals are good intentions – and NAM’s growth agenda highlights steps necessary to promote investment. Necessary policies include:
- Pro-growth tax policies;
- An “all of the above” energy strategy; and
- A strong, modernistic infrastructure.
Of course, there are many more – but let’s look at the aforementioned: with energy policy at the forefront. Energy policies can shape manufacturers’ future. For years, the United States lacked a comprehensive policy, and that meant dozens of missed business opportunities related to securable, reliable, and affordable energy-related tactics. (One example: the current administration’s ongoing failure to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, an approach that denies manufacturers access to reliable energy resources from northern-positioned allies).
Meanwhile, a strong and permanent research and development incentive should spur innovation, as should strong intellectual property and cyber protections.
Evolving Trade Agreements
For manufacturers to reach new markets abroad, we need new trade agreements and policies that reduce tariff and nontariff barriers to global commerce. Make completion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership a priority, NAM advocates. Negotiations between the United States and the European Union should also help.
Great ideas, but the US Congress must first approve Trade Promotion Authority for President Obama. No new trade deals will get done with the aisle-divided negotiators in Congress.
All the while, a nation – even a world – hopes for positive government action. Organizations such as NAM address the critical issues:
- The skills gap remains a challenge to manufacturing competitiveness. To close it, we need to ensure that education and training programs prepare workers with the skills manufacturers need.
- Employers must be assured access to the pipeline of talent abroad by over-hauling a seriously fractured immigration system – which means addressing a contentious, controversial issue.
Clear thought is required if pro-growth policies are to move beyond the theoretical to the possible.
The main challenge? Transforming political rhetoric into substantial action.
Jay Timmons, who contributed to this article, is president and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), a leading advocate for the nearly 12 million Americans employed in the manufacturing sector. NAM, the largest US manufacturing association, fosters a stronger economy by enhancing the competitiveness of American manufacturers. Learn more by visiting www.nam.org.