National Manufacturing Strategy Spurred by Lipinski Legislation is Released; Critical Step for Middle Class

By Congressman Dan Lipinski (IL-3)

Earlier this month, on National Manufacturing Day, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy released its “Strategy for American Leadership in Advanced Manufacturing,” a comprehensive plan to promote American manufacturing competitiveness.  This strategy, which is the first since Alexander Hamilton, is the direct result of a bill I wrote that became law in 2014.
The manufacturing sector has historically been a source of good-paying middle-class jobs and upward economic mobility for hard-working men and women in our communities and our country, and has spillover effects on employment in other sectors.  For every worker hired to work in manufacturing, on average, four additional jobs are created.  That is why the collapse of manufacturing has not only hurt workers in manufacturing, but has been so devastating to entire communities. 
Growing up on the southwest side of Chicago, I have always understood how critical American manufacturing is and that we need policies to promote it.  The 2008 recession woke up others to the fact that we cannot take our manufacturing sector for granted.  More than two million manufacturing jobs were lost over an 18-month period, and while there has been some recovery since then, current employment levels remain below what they were in 2007. 
And while some sectors of the economy have recovered from the recession and are thriving, many in the middle class are still struggling.  The new manufacturing strategy plots the course back to a strong, globally dominant manufacturing sector and a brighter future for the middle class.
The need for the federal government to invest in the manufacturing sector is greater now than at any point in recent memory.  Our global competitors, most notably China and the European Union, have their own comprehensive manufacturing strategies and are seeking to dominate the industrial sectors – at our expense.
U.S. private sector investment in manufacturing research and development (R&D) has declined in recent years, undercutting our ability to create new manufacturing jobs.  Government investment spurs private sector investment, with every federal dollar spent on R&D leading to an additional 27 cents of private sector investment.  If that federal dollar comes in the form of a grant or contract to a private sector firm, it results in an average of $1.70 of research.
The new strategy sets forth three goals to focus government efforts to advance manufacturing across industrial sectors: develop new manufacturing technologies and transition them into use in factories; educate, train, and connect the manufacturing workforce; and expand the capabilities of the domestic supply chain. 
In addition, the report prioritizes cybersecurity, investing in innovation programs that help spur product creation, expanding manufacturing-oriented workforce development programs such as credentialing and apprenticeships, and emphasizing the vital need to have a strong defense industrial base to produce strategically important goods such as communications and electronic equipment that are critical for national defense.
This strategy is important not just for those who work or want to work in the manufacturing sector, but for our economy as a whole.  Having more American-made goods on store shelves lets us spend more of our dollars at home, boosting U.S. employment and earnings. 
I am a long-time champion of “Buy American” laws, which ensure that federal taxpayer dollars are spent on American goods whenever possible, and I believe that we should enable the private sector to do the same by investing in domestic manufacturing, versus offshoring the production and jobs.
In the next Congress, I am planning to introduce legislation that will lead to the creation of regional manufacturing innovation clusters that foster the development and implementation of new processes and technologies.  My bill will also require coordination with local universities to develop credentialing programs that meet local employers’ needs, and with government-funded manufacturing institutes to ensure their efforts are well-supported by federal resources.  I am looking forward to learning how the Administration plans to implement the strategy through their budget and legislation, and stand ready to support reasonable policies and new investments.
This manufacturing strategy is a big step in the right direction, and that is why I wrote the legislation that required it to be written.  I’m encouraged that the Administration recognizes the need to act.  We can’t afford to waste any time.  We must strengthen our American manufacturing sector to help expand the middle class and retain our status as the world leader in producing physical goods.
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