CEO notes higher technology manufacturing jobs key to revitalizing economy

February 3, 2012

An executive for a major technology firm in the U.S. has noted that innovation in higher technology can contribute to the ongoing revitalization of the country's manufacturing sector.

Eric Spiegel, president and chief executive officer for Siemens Corporation, noted that last month President Barack Obama invited business leaders to the White House to discuss strategies for reversing the outsourcing trend that has existed in previous decades. Reversing this practice, the commander-in-chief noted, could help to make America a manufacturing power again.

Spiegel noted that the conventional wisdom regarding the decline in manufacturing was wrong, however.

"For too long, we've operated under the assumption that because labor is cheaper elsewhere, and because no company, however well-intended, would choose to build something for more when they could build it for less, manufacturing here was more or less doomed," the executive said in a release.

The executive noted that high-end products, the future of manufacturing, require skilled workers, precision assembly, intensive research and complex technology. Spiegel outlined how the U.S. has the framework to meet these requirements, especially due to the capabilities of its citizens.

"That's especially true when you consider that U.S. workers are, on average, three times as productive as Chinese workers," he said in the release. "Together, this makes it possible to build them in America, as cost-competitively as anywhere else, because access to innovators is far more important than access to cheap labor."

The New York Times reported that Obama and Congress may offer help to companies who are looking to keep operations within the U.S. as opposed to outsourcing work. A survey in November showed that one-in-five North American manufacturers brought production back from a "low-cost" country, up from one-in-10 companies in 2010.

A. Michael Spence, a professor at New York University and a Nobel laureate in economics, told the newspaper that this transition may not happen overnight, but increased support from the government may help to bolster high-end manufacturing in the U.S.

"But sometimes it makes sense to have a little help developing technologies that will make us competitive," he told the Times. "And sometimes public support for upgrading workers’ skills makes sense."

Spiegel noted that the reliance on more high-end manufacturing will bring jobs back to the U.S., as he identified the Labor Department figures of a 136,000 job increase in the sector in the last year.

"If we get this right, the story of the next decade won't be another one about the decline of manufacturing. It'll be about how American manufacturing, once again, saved America," the executive said in the release.