America Has a Trump Card: Manufacturing

America Has a Trump Card: Manufacturing
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Manufacturing is a signature part of the Trump presidential brand and will define much of his success.

But is his gamble on manufacturing worth it? Skeptics insist that manufacturing is in irreversible decline. That’s not what we see each year when the National Association of Manufacturers travels the country on our State of Manufacturing Tour. We are alive and prospering.

To the contrary, the manufacturing story is one of advancement and transformation. From self-driving cars to 3-D printing, the future is being made right here in America.

Our country is benefitting from its place as the global leader in innovation. Every dollar invested in U.S. manufacturing adds another $1.81 to the economy. And manufacturing supports jobs for 18 million American men and women, with more jobs being created every day.

We’re not just talking about assembly lines, either. Today there are engineers turning the unimaginable into reality, developers writing the code undergirding the Industrial Internet of Things and technicians keeping the precision robotics running. There are scientists discovering chemical compounds that become lifesaving drugs, and even brew masters perfecting their trade and earning America a reputation for some of the world’s best craft beer.

Perhaps the greatest challenge facing modern manufacturing is filling the jobs we are creating. Within 10 years, manufacturing will have more than 2 million positions left open because there will not be enough employees with the right skills to fill them.

This is deeply troubling because we hear so often about the other side of the manufacturing story—changing times have caused some facilities to close. In the most recent election, we saw—like never before—the frustration of people who feel stuck in communities where new opportunities haven’t yet matched those losses.
We must find ways to bring more of these Americans—the ones wondering if they still have a place in the modern economy—into the world of modern manufacturing.

It’s not just about “bringing jobs back” from the past. It’s about connecting more people with jobs of the future. We must rethink our country’s outdated approach to education and training, so we prepare Americans for the jobs that will be in demand in the coming years and decades—and “future-proof” their careers.

Manufacturers have already begun on our own shop floors, helping employees “upskill” with new talents so they can move up within our companies. Now we need educators, business leaders and policymakers to join us in these efforts, so we can invite young people and job changers everywhere to take their pick of careers in U.S. manufacturing.

Workforce development is just the beginning, however. To fully unleash manufacturing’s promise to bring hope and dignity back to struggling communities, we also must get the policies coming out of Washington, D.C., on the right track.

President Trump is correct that other countries are beating us with smarter, fairer tax codes, investments in modern infrastructure and a more sensible, navigable regulatory environment. The world can’t match the productivity and innovation of the U.S. workforce, but without meaningful reform, working families will pay the price for our policy mistakes. That’s not fair and totally wrong.

America must become an even better and more competitive place to do business. Manufacturers have put forth the plan to do it in our “Competing to Win” policy agenda. We are hearing many of the right words of support from policymakers. So now it’s time to make progress and to move past divisive politics.

That’s why the State of Manufacturing Tour, which launches this week in Austin, will focus on unity and manufacturers’ commitment to being the solution. There is too much at stake to allow our differences to become excuses for inaction. Only by working together can we achieve the goal of making America even greater.

David Farr is Chairman & CEO of Emerson, and Jay Timmons is President & CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers.  

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