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Manufacturing

Congressional hearing

By Andy Barks

March 2009 - Just a week after offering its endorsement of the much-debated stimulus package, the National Association of Manufacturers, Washington, D.C., released its own agenda, specifically the agenda for the 111th Congress.

In its legislative agenda for economic recovery and job creation, NAM emphasized the priorities of its constituency. Much like its support of the stimulus package, the association's agenda is highlighted by the collective concerns of the manufacturing sector, and more specifically, proposals for how to reinvigorate it.

Acknowledged adversity
Although the U.S. manufacturing index for February indicated some improvement, NAM President John Engler warns that the industry can't survive on pluck alone. It needs organized assistance, the vast majority of which will come from job creation and retention. And according to Engler, it can't come soon enough.

"NAM believes that Congress, the Obama administation and the private sector are in a strong position to respond in a positive and effective way," Engler said in a press release. "Manufacturers employ nearly 13 million workers and contribute more than $1.6 trillion to the U.S. economy each year. Manufacturing is the largest driver of economic growth and accounts for the lion's share of private sector research and development."

Engler has repeatedly made his message clear to Congress, which is already under pressure to restore the manufacturing industry. There's no debate about the vitality of the sector when it's clicking, but re-establishing the production that's been lost is a multi-pronged process.

"It requires hard work and smart policies to keep U.S. manufacturing competitive in the global marketplace," Engler said. "The basic challenge is to retain and create jobs. A strong manufacturing sector is vital to this challenge."

Campaigning for competition
Engler also attacked the perceived mentality of the moment, which has many cautious on trade fronts. Weak demand and low commodity prices have hurt competition in both the domestic and international marketplaces. The collapse of credit institutions on the home front hasn't helped either, discouraging investments and general spending. That's the wrong reaction, according to Engler.

"On energy and taxes, health care and education, innovation and infrastructure, labor and trade, we need policies that encourage investment and remove the barriers to competition," he said. "Global competition will only get more vigorous, so manufacturers in America must always look ahead. We need to lay the groundwork now so we'll be in a strengthened position to expand when the economy begins to grow again."

Perhaps Engler's last point is the most important: The economic meltdown is a global phenomenon, not one confined to the States. In that sense, the United States is in as decent a position as any country to claw its way out.

NAM continues to stress that little headway will be made without a distinct commitment to the re-establishment of domestic production. The organization continues to emphasize that such an approach should ease all the other transitions by lowering unemployment and buoying trade markets. The contention is that Congress must dictate the commitment. FFJ

Sources

  • National Association of Manufacturers
    Washington, D.C.
    phone: 202/637-3000
    fax: 202/637-3182
    www.nam.org
    e-mail: manufacturing@nam.org

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