Focus on Exports, Jobs Will Follow

I have been banging the drum for months now that the biggest mistake we have been making in this debate-filled presidential election year, a year chock full of fiery campaign rhetoric, is that we’ve allowed ourselves to become incredibly if not utterly obsessed with job creation.   Obsessed, in fact, to a fault.

And while that is understandable – after all, there are still millions of ready, willing and able Americans desperately seeking full-time work – it clouds a far more critical issue, albeit one not nearly so politically charged. 

What we Americans should really be focusing on is not such much jobs, as exports.  The more this country is able to export American-made products, goods and services, the more this economy will grow and the more we’ll be able to begin the process of creating new jobs.

Now granted, it’s not as easy as it used to be.  As we’ve discussed, a good portion of the manufacturing sector these days is headed toward a new generation of “quiet” factories, fueled by automation, robotics and sophisticated software, and the sector will be less about job growth than it will be about expansion, efficiency and profitability.  But that does not mean this new generation of manufacturing will be completely devoid of new jobs.  We will still require tens of thousands of skilled machinists and engineers to build and maintain those machines fueling this growth, as well as countless innovative designers to develop and deploy our new array of products.

What’s more, a healthy manufacturing sector will continue to rely on countless products and support services to keep it humming.  And trust me; the job growth such support and ancillary services will trigger will be just as real as the manufacturing renaissance that led to their creation.  

And on top of all that, now that American business is operating in a day and age in which certain high-end services — things like new product design, architecture, software development, financial planning and legal services, to name just a few — can be delivered globally by a simple keystroke, the whole notion of American “exports” has been, literally, turned on its ear. 

These days it doesn’t take an entire fleet of ships or millions of square feet worth of crates to export high-quality American-made products.  Today, it is possible to ship hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of “exports” with little more than good old fashioned brain power, an infinitesimal series of ones and zeroes and, of course, a state-of-the-art internet connection.   

It will be complicated, of course.  And just as it’s taken a while for our economy to adjust to its role in the global marketplace, it will take a while for the products and services we will require going forward to get up to speed with our this economic reality. 

But it will happen.  Believe me.  There is an inherent wisdom of the open marketplace, not to mention an aspect of the American entrepreneurial spirit and passion for innovation that, for whatever reason, exists here like it does nowhere else on the planet.

Plus, there is now something just as important, if not more so, as the whole concept of the global economy driving us forward to design, create and export like never before.  There is now what amounts to an exploding global middle class; the biggest in the history of mankind, made up of billions of upwardly mobile people, families and companies the world over just begging for the things we make and do in this country. 

Jobs are important, yes.  As is keeping the American dream alive, well and available to as many citizens as possible.  But the real issue is exports.  And if we keep ourselves focused on exports, like I’ve said before, the growth, the revenue, the opportunities and above all, the jobs will follow.

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