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Manufacturing: The Engine of Prosperity

By: Michael Bleau

Monday, August 01, 2011
 

It seems that my column in the May 2011 issue of MetalForming (Earned Success: A Case for Hard Knocks) struck a nerve with readers. It prompted numerous phone calls and e-mails, including an e-mail from PMA member Bob Roseman, president of Ehrhardt Tool & Machine Co., Granite City, IL. Bob emphasized to me that the government’s role is to make it possible for private industry to create jobs. Unfortunately, he added, many legislators have decided that government primarily is responsible for job creation.

Bob penned a few paragraphs to illustrate a simple analogy that he had offered during a recent conversation with a member of the Illinois State Economic Development. Here’s what Bob passed along to me.

Some people consider manufacturing jobs and even the business of manufacturing as being dirty and undesirable. Some would compare it with shoveling manure—a daily requirement on a dairy farm. And so we start our story. Dairy cows can be challenging to deal with, and require constant feeding, a clean barn, fresh water and daily milking. During the summer, farmers sweat it out shoveling, branding and watering. Then come the winter months and the cold and dark morning milkings. It’s a hard, unappreciated life hidden a in vast rural areas, out of the sight of the public. To the casual observer, life on a dairy fame might seem like a waste of land, resources and time. Some might even say of the cows, “Why do they need so much and why can’t they just take care of themselves?”

Consider that inevitable day when, after struggling for years to care for the cows, the farmer finally gives up, and the milk stops flowing. The people scream with a righteous sense of entitlement, “Where’s my milk?” They demand that the government create and enforce regulations that force the farmers to make the cows produce milk. Better yet, the people and government, who are largely non-farmers, decide to dictate to the farmer how best to make the cows produce more milk and how much the farmers can charge the people for the milk.

Taking it one step further, when the farmers retire and send their cows to greener pastures, no one steps up to take their place and become farmers. Farming becomes viewed as dirty, hard work, holding no promise of a future.

After awhile, the milk supply dwindles and the voices of the people grow louder, demanding that the government step in. Meanwhile, some far-a farmers have begun to send their milk to these wanting folks, at first a welcomed solution but one that becomes troubling as more and more local farms disappear and the local economy begins to weaken. The local farmers and their spending habits were, of course, supported that local economy. Some people begin to market their goods to farmers in these far-a lands, but bump up against local competition.

I’m sure you can carry forth this analogy to manufacturing. What now will we do to survive? How can we bring manufacturing back to America? In a word: Profit. We must offer manufacturers the opportunity to make more money here than they can somewhere else. We do this by creating a stable business climate immune to substantial change based on shortsighted political agendas.

To be successful here, we need Americans to view manufacturing positively. They must understand that a solid manufacturing base is at the core of a healthy, independent economy. Today’s production facilities are not the hot and dirty sweatshops that many envision when they think of manufacturing.

To compete successfully, today’s U.S. manufacturers require a skilled, educated workforce that collectively strives for an efficient, safe and fiscally responsible operation producing high-quality products. Manufacturing cannot exist without creating jobs, consuming resources and fueling local, state and federal economies.

We will continue to struggle to achieve this vision as long as we suffer politicians who feel that it’s appropriate to frame a businessman’s measurement of success with words like ‘undeserved,’ ‘outrageous,’ ‘excessive,’ ‘profiteering,’ and ‘greedy.’ Such language deters innovation. Manufacturing can again become the engine of prosperity in America, but only after we as a society recognize the honor and essential value that manufacturing brings. MF

 


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