What Manufacturing Needs from Trump

Trump 1Let’s forget the rancor of the campaign. Let’s forget the hate-speech, the xenophobia, the simplistic war cries, and the negative passions both candidates managed to trigger. Let’s just get past those things.

Because, whether half the country likes it or not, we’ve all chosen Donald Trump our next president.

So, what does that mean? Well, the ripple impact of a Trump presidency remains to be seen, and will have to play itself out over the course of the next four years.

But I do know this, there are two forces at work in today’s marketplace that are way, way, way bigger – not to mention more powerful – than any single politician, regardless of his political ideology or country.

Trump 7And those two forces are these: globalization and technology.

What’s more, despite what Trump may have promised on the campaign trail, those two things are simply not going away. Not now. Not ever.

As manufacturers, you and I have felt (and been impacted by) by both for decades. Not only has the global market created unexpected (and often unforeseen) competition, but it’s also taken countless manufacturing functions that used to be the sole purview of this country and off-shored them to dozens of raw and even primitive economies abroad.

But at the same time, that globalization has also increased our potential market, and done so exponentially. What’s more, it’s opened wide the global market for American-made goods and brand names – things that remain wildly in-demand in the two biggest and fastest growing of those economies, China and India.

And from a technology perspective, the development of game-changers like 3D printing, computer modeling, robotics, and automation have revolutionized our segment and left those upstart economies scrambling. That’s why so many industries experts said were lost forever, have started migrating back.

Trump 3Manufacturing, in other words – despite what the president-elect might have us believe – is in remarkably good shape and well-positioned for the future.

But that’s not to say we in the industrial sector don’t need at least two things from the next administration. And they’re two things we need right now.

The first is tax reform that make sense, not some kissin’ cousin to the flawed “trickle down” theory of the 1980’s.

The new administration must understand that, while American manufacturing is in the midst of a very-real comeback, what’s emerging from the ashes is a new and improved type of manufacturer. Today’s industrial job-creators are not a few bloated, smokestack-belching mega-corporations with facilities the size of urban neighborhoods, but hundreds, if not thousands of smaller and far more efficient shops, just like mine.

Trump 6We are the face of manufacturing today, and we’re the ones who remain our best hope at reenergizing America’s middle class. We’re the hirers and income-creators that Trump should really be trying to help, not the elite one-percenters in all those well-appointed corner offices in places like Wall Street. Because tax incentives for nimble and market-responsive manufacturers will pay dividends in not simply more American jobs, but better (and better-paying) ones as well.

What’s more, we’d then be incentivized to invest in state-of-the-art upgrades and the kind of capital-intensive technology that will allow us to stay one-step ahead of our foreign competition.

Secondly, industry needs an almost epic overhaul of our national infrastructure.

Trump 5As a proud and long-standing member of the industrial sector I can assure you, there is no segment of the economy more reliant on an efficient and well-maintained supply chain than ours. A strong supply chain is our lifeblood, and, by extension, this economy’s. And for that reason, it is essential we keep the cost/headache of transporting, shipping and receiving raw materials and finished goods to a minimum.

And that is becoming harder to do the more our roads crumble and the more our bridges decay, our pipes corrode, our airport computer systems crash, and our power grids stay wedded to aging, archaic technology.

For years I’ve been calling for the Obama Administration to invest trillions and build for this country a state-of-the-art, 21st Century infrastructure – both physical and electronic. And to its credit, that administration has invested in what, to this point, has been a small but steady step in that direction.

Trump 9But we need more. We need a public works project the likes of which this country’s not seen since the days of FDR and the New Deal, and the likes of which no Republican has commandeered since the days of Civil War Reconstruction.

Such a program would give thousands of Americans jobs. It would restore worker pride and stimulate the economy by getting money moving up and down the food economic chain. And it would ensure that every sector of the U.S. economy could keep abreast of what, in terms of today’s global supply chain, has has become the new normal.

Trump 8Yes, Donald Trump did his ever-loving best to divide us for 18 months. Yes, he made a lot of promises that are going difficult to keep under the harsh glare of his new job. And yes, he has a lot of mending of fences and a lot of re-building of bridges to do before this country can truly heal its still-open wounds.

But, believe me when I say this; the best way to start rebuilding so many of those metaphorical bridges is to start rebuilding a few hundred or so real ones. #

To see the full report and learn more about what is being called the Mississippi “Golden Triangle” of manufacturing, visit the 60 Minutes site here.

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