Top CEOs: America’s manufacturing sector needs help

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Business, nonprofit and advocacy leaders on Monday, June 15, called for a recovery of the manufacturing sector that includes enacting pro-industry policies and regulation that drive research and development, managing capital and investment, and creating new demand through innovation and globalization.

“The future of manufacturing must rely on advancing through innovation, exploration and commercialization, which requires an increasingly sophisticated work force and government policies to generate continued growth,” said Chip McClure, chief executive officer of ArvinMeritor, one of the executives participating in the “Manufacturing Competitiveness” Town Hall at The National Summit in Detroit.

The panelists, who agreed that economic growth requires the United States to be a manufacturing leader, shared ideas and recommended specific actions that would help restore manufacturing’s prominence in the United States.

“The United States remains the world’s largest manufacturing nation, accounting for more than 19.5 percent of global manufacturing output,” said John Engler, president of the National Association of Manufacturers. In 2007, the country produced more volume of products than ever, and manufacturing represented $1.6 trillion of our economy, Engler said. “However, manufacturing is in recession,” he said. “Every action the federal government takes to impose new burdens or add new costs makes it more difficult for manufacturers to create jobs and compete in the global economy.”

According to Engler, the federal government needs to consider the long-term impact that increasing costs, adding new regulations, raising taxes and expanding litigation will have on America’s future economic competitiveness.

“Prosperity comes from building, creating and producing,” McClure said. “Tough choices must be made to create a pro-industry climate with policies on trade, taxes, energy, health care and education that make it competitive for U.S. and foreign manufacturers to build here. An economic downturn is not the time to walk away from 12 million American manufacturing jobs. It’s the time to build.”

While manufacturing has been leaving the country, the panelists agreed it is important to ensure the departure means globalizing the supply chain, not giving it up. The industry must meet new areas of demand and ensure its position in a balanced, global manufacturing economy, the panelists agreed.

McClure said he believes manufacturers must get involved with policymakers and restore confidence in the country’s ability to compete, encourage innovative policies such as incentives to repatriate work, and improve vocational training to meet advanced technology’s needs.

“We think competitiveness should be the starting point for the debate in Washington,” Engler said. “Policymakers must consider a comprehensive energy policy, a pro-growth tax system, strengthened innovation, expanded trade and reasonable labor policies.”