Reposted from Crains Cleveland Business
Ginger Christ | September 24, 2012 | Crains Cleveland Business
American manufacturing needs a fair shot if it’s going to succeed, industry representatives said this morning during a gathering called the Northeast Ohio Summit on the Revitalization of Manufacturing.
Elected officials and executives of manufacturing companies decried the way the U.S. government is handicapping industry by not reforming tax and trade policy and, above all, by not developing a national manufacturing strategy.
Michael Stumo, CEO of Coalition for a Prosperous America, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that organized the event at Cuyahoga Community College’s Unified Technology Center, said the difficulty finding American-made products in stores illustrates a central problem for the United States: The country is running a trade deficit because it’s not aggressive in its manufacturing policy.
Other countries, including big rivals such as China and Germany, have national manufacturing strategies, which give manufacturers there an edge over their U.S. competitors, according to Bob Baugh, executive director of the AFL-CIO Industrial Union Council.
“They actually want manufacturing. It’s a policy in their countries. They want it. They want the jobs and the income that come of that,” Mr. Baugh said of China, Germany and other countries. “As far as I can tell, we do not. This country does not have a strategy. Or, to put it another way, it has a very perverse strategy of letting it go, of not paying attention, of not doing things to ensure that we have a strong industrial base in this country.”
At the federal level, the government at the very least should be addressing Chinese currency manipulation and enforcing trade laws, according to state Rep. Mike Dovilla, a Republican from Berea.
In allowing other countries to manipulate currency, the United States is letting others weaken its public policies on trade, said Pat Choate, an economist and author. As a result, the country will not be able to effectively compete globally, he said.
Charles Blum, president of IAS Group, a Washington, D.C.-based consulting firm, called for complete tax reform in the United States. He said this country should follow the lead of countries such as Australia and Canada by placing a consumption tax — a tax on money spent on goods and services — on imports.
Apart from political action, Jack Schron, president of Cleveland-based tooling components maker Jergens Inc., said there’s a need beyond supporting existing manufacturing: developing a new work force.
“We’ve gotten to the boiling point in U.S. manufacturing,” Mr. Schron said.
As baby boomers leave companies, so too does their knowledge, he said. Without a pipeline of new, skilled workers, manufacturing will be unable to grow, Mr. Schron said.