A few weeks ago in a speech to the Detroit Economic Club, Dow
Chemical Co. CEO Andrew Liveris said what we need in this country is a national
manufacturing policy. “Let us never forget that the very life force and strength
of this great country begins here, in America’s heartland,” he said.
He is absolutely right. What first made the U.S. strong was
a vibrant industrial and manufacturing base that drives innovation, technology
and creates jobs. Policy makers in Washington and those running for office seem
to have forgotten – or ignored – this
lesson. America’s heartland paid the
price with lost jobs and sagging economies. The U.S. economy has lost 3.7
million manufacturing jobs in the past 10 years – half a million just since the
end of 2006. The bulk those were in America’s heartland, but the impact is
The lack of a manufacturing policy – with teeth – is part of
the root cause of the economic disaster facing the U.S.
Neither presidential candidate has addressed this issue. With
the federal election just a few days away, it’s too late to bring it into
campaign rhetoric. Rebuilding the U.S.
economy isn’t going to be easy, but it can’t be done without a vibrant and
profitable manufacturing base.
During the Bush Administration, there were some half-hearted
steps. The creation of a toothless assistant secretary for manufacturing was
the most visible example. But this was window dressing. This time the policy
makers must do what manufacturers do best – make things that work. That means
not just tapping the manufacturing community for ideas. It means giving
manufacturing a real seat the table.
The manufacturing community has incredible talent. Harnessing this talent to rebuild the U.S.
economy is going to be important – to put people back to work, to develop
companies people want to invest in, to generate money people will spend on
houses, a night out or a vacation trip.
Manufacturing leaders must band together to send a strong
and united voice to policy makers in Washington. The manufacturing community is the key to
- Alternative energy solutions that work
- Cars – and other modes of transportation – that
are clean and efficient
- Pharmaceuticals and other therapies that save
And, most importantly, communities that work.
The “only path forward is one of collaboration and
coordination, public and private sectors, Republicans and Democrats, industry
and environmentalists, working together with the goal of finding and removing
obstacles. And we need to start where the major challenges of our day
intersect, on manufacturing, on jobs, on energy and the environment,”
Liveris told the Detroit Economic Club.
I couldn’t agree more.