Most people with half a brain who actually think about U.S. manufacturing agree that it is suffering. You can't watch or read the news without learning of plant closings, layoffs, furloughs, pay reductions, and growing unemployment lines that include many factory workers, staff, and management.
Help for U.S. manufacturing has been a topic of discussion for years. Politicians dance around the issue (about as well as they do on Dancing With the Stars), commission studies, appoint manufacturing czars, make promises that result in sound bites on the news, throw dollars at a few programs, and then focus on another hot topic, while manufacturing's dilemma simmers—once again—on the backburner.
To solve a problem, you have to go to the heart of it. Here are some thoughts from "Fabricating Update" readers who responded to the September issue's item about the recent appointment of Ron Bloom as the latest in a string of manufacturing czars and asked subscribers what they would tell him if they had his ear.
None of those who responded supported the Bloom appointment.
The president of an Illinois company wrote, "With regard to the appointment of Ron Bloom as Manufacturing Czar, I have to raise the issue of the manufacturing competency of a banker, who typically works at the very high strategic financing levels and knows absolutely nothing about the day-to-day difficulties on the shop floor, the age/generation/condition of existing equipment, the step-by-step work flow through a fab shop, quality, scrap, and the basic struggle manufacturing companies are facing—in other words, the front lines.
"My advice to Bloom is to quickly enlist someone who knows what they're doing. [If he doesn't] he might do more harm than good."
Paraphrasing Tina Turner, a subscriber from a fabrication shop in Pennsylvania wrote, "We don't need another Czar.
" I would tell Bloom to retire—go to another country and leave manufacturing to manufacturing.
"Have you looked at Bloom's background? How do you think he will help? Long after this administration, no one will remember Bloom or what he did.
"This Government stinks! It's the same old song. Remember the words of Ronnie Reagan who said the thing you don't want to hear is: 'I'm here from the government and I am here to help you.' For the government to help anyone means they have to take something away from someone else."
Fabricator, motorcycle and snowmobile enthusiast, Mike, said, "Ron Bloom is not qualified and will not help manufacturers. He has no manufacturing skills. He is a union organizer and an investment advisor.
" Looking for help from the Feds is a waste of time. If manufacturers need to come up with their own plans—frankly, that is the way it should be. Do not look to the government for help. Determine what you're good at, keep getting better, and you will do well."
Mike may be right, but some respondents had suggestions for what government could do to help.
Barry, from a multifaceted Louisiana-based company, wrote, "It is hardly likely that Mr. Bloom will be proposing any valuable changes in strategy for American manufacturing. His involvement with the unions is pretty much par for the course of President Obama's choices for aides, all coming from the committed socialistic approach. That type of thinking generally just adds bureaucracy which stifles innovation. An expert in developing small businesses would be a better choice.
"As I see it, the best chance for U.S. manufacturing to prosper is through small to mid-size organizations producing sophisticated or niche products as efficiently as can be managed. If the government really wants to help U.S. manufacturing it should encourage reinvestment with tax breaks and work to remove the current stigma attached to working in production that disaffects much of America's youth."
A reader from a company that makes armored cars wrote, "We should begin building more nuclear power plants ASAP. This would give us the clean and safe electrical power we need at a reasonable price for the next 30 plus years. But just as important, it would also create manufacturing jobs in the Midwest where many have been displaced by the current economic conditions in the car and RV industries. Also it would help restore construction jobs and the infrastructure that have been lost since the housing crisis.
" Why Nuclear? Because we will need substantial electrical power for future vehicles that will be operateD by batteries that we plan to be building. By doing this, it would also lower the oil imports that have caused our trade deficits to skyrocket and lower our carbon footprint as well. This also would create jobs in maintaining and operating them for years to come."
Jack, the president of a laser job shop in the central U.S., also included building more nuclear power plants among his suggestions. He said, "The Obama administration wants to destroy business in this country. He is in favor of everything that is anti-business: Card check; heath care government takeover; cap and trade; and government takeover of GM and banks."
Among the steps Jack suggested for helping manufacturing are:
- "Cutting capital gains taxes
- Cutting taxes
- Tort reform
- Reining in the Freaking EPA - EPA has done more to kill jobs in this country than any other government organization!
- Putting a mandatory hold on all new regulation
- Making cost benefit analysis for all legislation mandatory
- Building more nuclear power plants
- Clearing the way for building more refineries and drilling for our own oil—offshore and on federal lands
- Consolidating all government organizations, such as OSHA and EEOC"
Jack's final suggestion: "GET GOVERNMENT OUT OF LIVES AND BUSINESS. This is not a fascist state!"
And finally, a fabricator from Washington State thinks we need to: "Change the culture! Many Americans and their extended family have been shielded from manufacturing by employment opportunities in other more visible sectors. As a result the metalworking trades are suffering from credibility lapse that has our young generation, Congress, senators, etc., at a loss as to how important and vital manufacturing is to America.
"As an entrepreneur involved in the metalworking industry for 30+ years, I have discovered that most Americans don't have a clue about the skill and knowledge necessary to work in the metalworking trades. They will say, 'Oh! you're a factory worker?' We are machinists, fabricators, engineers, sheet metal workers, millwrights, and tradesmen making everything under the sun.
"We need the consciousness of America and the ears of politicians to support manufacturing at every level."
Among this fabricators recommendations are:
- "Eliminating favored-nation statusCEliminating corporate tax incentives to manufacture abroad
- Giving small businesses incentives to invest in capital equipment
- Providing tax relief to offset power consumption costs for manufacturers
- Establishing apprentice programs
- Promoting K-12 awareness of the industrial history of or country up to the current date
- Encouraging engineering with subsidized college education as incentive to rally this generation on board
- We own the global entertainment industries! Give incentives to educate and produce media and documentaries on manufacturing topics!"
There's some good stuff here, but we are preaching to the choir when the Administration, Congress, Bloom, community leaders, and educators need to hear the sermon. If you know someone who really needs to hear the Gospel according to Manufacturing, spread the word. Click the Send to a Friend button near the top of his page and forward the post.
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