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Aggressive Agenda on Competitiveness Needed

National Association of Manufacturers leads the way in manufacturing resurgence in America
By Jay Timmons

Manufacturing powers an economy. For every dollar invested in manufacturing in the U.S., $1.48 of spin-off economic activity is generated. No other sector can match that economic impact.

Manufacturing’s outsized economic impact is a big reason why Americans have looked to manufacturers to lead us out of the recession. In the months after the official end of the downturn, we did. Our growth topped four percent. We were outperforming other sectors in job creation, but then this momentum stalled.

To get manufacturing – and our economy – back on track for strong and sustainable growth, policymakers in Washington need to embark on an aggressive agenda that makes competitiveness the top priority.

America’s competitiveness is slipping whether through inaction – like Congress’s failure to enact meaningful tax and entitlement reform – or bad policies – like the excessive regulations coming out of the Environmental Protection Agency. Far too often, Washington makes it harder to compete.

The good news is that we can compete. We can fix the problems facing our economy. If Congress and the President make the right choices, manufacturing can thrive and the economy will grow.

The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) has a plan at the ready. Our “Growth Agenda,” which is available at, lays out the specific policies that will enable a manufacturing resurgence in the U.S.

We focus on investment, innovation, trade and the workforce, setting out these four central aspirations:

• The U.S. will be the best place in the world to manufacture and attract foreign direct investment.

• Manufacturers in the U.S. will be the world’s leading innovators.

• The U.S. will expand access to global markets to enable manufacturers to reach the 95 percent of consumers who live outside our borders.

• Manufacturers in the U.S. will have access to the workforce that the 21st century economy demands.

To achieve these goals, we need to fix our overly complicated tax system, ensuring low rates for small and medium-sized manufacturers and a corporate rate that no longer has the dubious distinction of being the world’s highest, as well as enacting a territorial system that promotes international competitiveness.

We need an “all-of-the-above” energy strategy and regulations that are reasonable and don’t deter investment. We need to modernize our aging infrastructure by, for example, investing in long-term and sustainable transportation priorities, expanding export capabilities and advancing pro growth broadband solutions. We need permanent and strong research and development incentives that promote innovation. And we need trade policies that open new markets, prioritize exports and ensure a level playing field for manufacturers in the U.S.

And, of course, we need men and women to take the reins as the next generation of manufacturers. Today, despite high unemployment, roughly 600,000 manufacturing jobs are going unfilled because manufacturers can’t find workers with the right skills. In the years ahead this skills gap will likely widen as thousands of manufacturing workers retire.

To attract individuals to the manufacturing workforce – and to assure manufacturers that they possess the right skills – the NAM-affiliated Manufacturing Institute is focusing on a number of initiatives like a national skills certification system and a program to help veterans entering the private sector.

Comprehensive immigration reform is another solution. Too often, talented students receive their education in the U.S., only to be forced to return home after earning their degree. Without major reforms, we will continue sending talent to our competitors and turning away a future generation of entrepreneurs.

And besides being good for our economy, immigration reform is the right thing to do.

Perhaps more than any other state, Michigan has witnessed the changes in manufacturing in the U.S. The assembly line – devised right here – fueled manufacturing growth that brought prosperity to Michigan. Decades later, a changing global economy challenged the state and the nation.

But with the right policies, the U.S. will be the most competitive place to do business in the world, and a manufacturing resurgence will be a reality.

Jay Timmons is president and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers.