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UpFront: You've Got Your 15 Minutes. Use It Wisely.

 Sarah A. Webster

By Sarah A. Webster
Editor in Chief


That nation is finally listening.

From President Barack Obama, who made manufacturing a central theme of his State of the Union, to Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney, who also pledges to bring manufacturing jobs back to America, manufacturing is now a major topic of conversation. This is the moment we've been waiting for—that some say its overdue—right?

So, manufacturers, what do you want? Changes in tax codes, trade policies, regulations, education? Now is your time in the spotlight, so don’t squander it. Let your opinions on how to strengthen the foundation of manufacturing be heard now, while folks are still listening.

Already, many are questioning how much of a resurgence manufacturing can really make in the US. I’ve spotted doubting Tweets and stories from Bloomberg and PBS questioning how valuable manufacturing really can be in rebuilding the economy. In a recent New York Times piece "Do Manufacturers Need Special Treatment?" the author concluded: "So far, a persuasive case for a manufacturing policy remains to be made, while that for many other economic policies is well established." And this headline on said frankly: "Let’s not kid ourselves about manufacturing jobs."

There’s still a conventional wisdom among many that manufacturing, like Elvis, left the building a long time ago. And it’s foolish to expect him to return.

While I know many of us are feeling the glow of the attention on manufacturing, the danger of being knocked out of the spotlight—before meaningful changes are made—is real.

What’s more, it might look to some that manufacturing doesn’t need all that much TLC. After all, manufacturing helped drive down US unemployment to 8.3% in January. Many manufacturers are also reporting double-digit growth in orders and something unheard of just a few years ago: backorders. We must remember, and remind others, that manufacturing started leaving America not just because of low labor costs, but because of other challenges that still exist. We cannot affort to let the nation forget the high number of spinoff jobs (anywhere from 2-9) that manufacturing provides.

A good way to keep the manufacturing discussion going is to register for one SME's events this month, starting with Composites Manufacturing 2012 in Phoenix on March 13; FABTECH Canada, starting March 20; WESTEC in Los Angeles, starting March 27; and MicroManufacturing/NanoManufacturing in Boston, starting March 28. The ME editing team will be Tweeting live from the events, so follow us on Twitter at SME_ME!

This article was first published in the March 2012 edition of Manufacturing Engineering magazine.  Click here for PDF

Published Date : 3/1/2012

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