With American unemployment now at a 26-year high and much of the job loss a result of well-paying manufacturing jobs being “shipped overseas” as they say, the country’s newly-appointed Manufacturing Czar Ron Bloom clearly has his work cut out. Constituents from all over the country are no doubt lining up to make pleas for some sort of badly-needed assistance.
Here’s our take. We applaud the President’s recognition that the country’s manufacturing sector lies at the core of its economy and we hope this newly-created position will help reverse the loss of jobs seen in recent years and offer a long-term vision for strengthening the country’s manufacturing base. While all sorts of businesses are in dire need of assistance at the moment, we hope the Manufacturing Czar goes beyond quick fixes to adopt policies that will foster new innovation and sustained production. We need to look out for our rising entrepreneurs as well as our more mature industries.
How to do this?
First, consider the way fuel prices factor into businesses’ overall operating expenses. While high fuel prices clearly equal high operating costs, volatility can be almost as bad, making it impossible for businesses to project their expenses from one month to the next and leaving them reluctant to commit to high levels of output. The Manufacturing Czar should work with the Department of Energy and other groups to consider ways to keep oil and gas prices affordable, and at least somewhat predictable.
Second, go on the offensive. Too often, manufacturing is equated with steel and other “older” industries that are considered passé. Steel, of course, is hardly passé, but more to the point, it’s not just these mature manufacturing industries that are seeing jobs move overseas. Take wind power. The American Wind Energy Association notes that barely half of industry’s wind turbine equipment is made in the U.S. Much of the rest comes from China. Wind is commonly considered one of the industries of the future, yet even there, the U.S. has too often failed to embrace the manufacturing component. The Manufacturing Czar should not focus so much on preserving existing jobs, that he loses sight of the potential of up-and-coming industries to keep our economy strong in the future.