From the Shop Floor — The Week in Manufacturing (4/29/2011)

Here’s what I’m hearing and reading this week in our little corner of the economy.

Blogger Mark Hendricks offered this wonderful post (and a wealth of compelling evidence) of how the reports of the death of American manufacturing have been greatly exaggerated.

Meanwhile, Professor Mark Perry, a personal favorite blogger of mine, takes “The Donald” Trump and his ilk to task for their non-stop and clearly half-baked assertions about “the decline of U.S. manufacturing,” claiming that manufacturing as a percentage of GNP remains the same in this country as it is the world over — down, but not to any significant degree relative to everyone else.

Speaking of the King of the Comb-over, it was learned this week that Trump’s personal clothing line is manufactured in….(drum roll, please)…China.

Don’t know about you, but after so many consecutive months of growth I can’t wait to see if our sector’s streak will remain intact.  The ISM issues its monthly report on American manufacturing this coming Monday at 10 AM EST.

Just because U.S. manufacturing continues to expand, doesn’t mean that manufacturing is on the decline elsewhere.   In fact, Bloomberg reports that despite slightly higher interest rates and an increasingly stronger yuan, manufacturing in China continued to steadily grow this month.

I plan to blog on this in greater detail in the weeks ahead, but its ironic that it appears China might have finally found something to derail its booming manufacturing growth:  a stunningly undependable, even inept, trucking industry.

Quick, how many Chinese brands can you name?   Exactly.  That’s why computer giant Lenovo recently enlisted fabled Madison Ave. agency Saatchi & Saatchi to brand their many China-based products and instill in them an Apple-like cachet.

In Massachusetts, the Boston Globe reports the state’s tech sector helped it more than double the national average for economic growth in Q1.

Nationally, the Commerce Department had good news relative to at least one critical economic barometer: new orders for durable goods were up in the first quarter of ’11, offsetting an otherwise sluggish first quarter for the U.S. economy.  More evidence that what recovery that continues to unfold in this country is largely a product of manufacturing’s ongoing resurgence.

The New Republic offers a fascinating analysis of how the growth of American jobs may just rely on manufacturers being able to maintain steady growth while still retaining their relatively small size.  When off-shoring becomes essential, according to the analysis, is when the amount of employees and the volume of orders reach a critical tipping point.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid recently returned from a trip to China, where he experienced what I’ll call “crane shock.”  Reid said the volume of cranes in many Chinese urban areas is downright staggering.  But what really struck him , and what I’ve contended for years is the single most critical area of vulnerability for the U.S. economy, is China’s commitment to inexpensive, renewable energy.  This country had better get on board soon, or spend decades (or longer) wishing we had.

Swedish journalist Erik Mellgren recently visited the States and wondered one thing: why are Yankee entrepreneurs so consumed with social media, while their Scandinavian counterparts are so obsessed with making things?

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