The American Manufacturer ? an endangered species

Feb. 23, 2004
we are entitled to the same considerations given any other animal on that list.

About a month ago I had the privilege and pleasure of attending a media event that occurred in Cleveland, but that received national news coverage. The event was the introduction of the Bush Administration’s plan for the manufacturing sector in America. The event took place in the manufacturing facility at The Lincoln Electric Company’s world headquarters, at which U.S. Commerce Secretary Donald L. Evans released a document called Manufacturing in America. Also present at the event were Ohio Governor Bob Taft, National Association of Manufacturers president Jerry Jasinowski, and other honored guests, all graciously hosted by Lincoln’s COO John M. Stropki.

Although I don’t know how Lincoln Electric was chosen for this event, I can certainly see why it was. This is a company that bears a hundred-plus year old name and is a leader in the arc welding business. Most of you are probably familiar with their products. But I think the real beauty in Evans’ choice of venue for his announcement is that Lincoln is a manufacturing company that produces goods used mainly by other manufacturers.

Like many of my colleagues in the trade media, I have for years bemoaned America’s willingness to let its manufacturing base diminish. I know that many reading this page agree with me, so it’s good news for all of us that an administration has finally taken some formal notice. It’s nice to see a plan take shape to strengthen American manufacturing once again.

It would be nice if Congress also took the administration’s lead and adopted a legislative agenda that actually promoted manufacturing on American soil.

Wouldn’t that be a novel concept?

Manufacturing in America is a report overdue. It’s more than overdue, it’s urgently needed. I know it’s only a document, and the proof of its merit will be its successful execution. But it’s a good starting point, and it’s more than we’ve had.

The report, available online at, offers some action steps listed below:

  • Create the conditions for economic growth and manufacturing investment.
  • Lower the cost of manufacturing in the U.S.
  • Invest in innovation.
  • Strengthen education, retraining, and economic diversification.
  • Promote open markets and a level playing field.
  • Enhance government’s focus on manufacturing competitiveness.

Each of these items is worthy of pursuit. This means our government needs to stop overburdening us with restrictive tax policies, regulations based more on bad politics than good science, and other restrictions that hinder our competitiveness. Wouldn’t it be nice to invest more in new equipment and technologies than we do in lawyers and accountants?

The current economic downturn has done much to make the media, politicians, and voters take notice of all the manufacturing jobs lost in this country. It’s a great time for participants in manufacturing, which the report terms “a cornerstone of the American economy,” to keep the political heat in Washington on ‘high.’ We finally have some political momentum on our side. Let’s use it!

The key is to let our elected officials know that America’s manufacturers, who just happen to be the best and most productive in the world, are an endangered species. As such, we are entitled to the same considerations given any other animal on that list. I’m not talking about protectionist economic policies, of which I am usually not in favor, but I am talking about government leaving us alone to do what we do best — make things.