Industrial heartlands could hold key to presidential election

November 5, 2012

With the Democrats and Republicans counting down the hours until the majority of the electorate can head to the polling booths, U.S. manufacturers will be waiting to see which presidential candidate will be able to deliver on promises made on the campaign trail.

According to The Oregonian, states with a strong manufacturing heritage are at the forefront of the 2012 race with both President Obama and challenger Mitt Romney making numerous trips to the industrial heartlands of the country to woo the workforce. While the support of manufacturing industry will be one of a number of factors that come into play when it comes to deciding who wins the election, the implementation of a future business strategy could depend on which party holds the reins of power.

Industry analysts believe that President Obama needs to win in states such as Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin to be re-elected, with many of them confident that manufacturing will have an important role to play in the economic recovery. A recent survey by the Washington Post showed that blue collar workers in the MidWest were firmly in the Obama camp with 41 percent of those surveyed saying that they were more likely to vote for the president than for the challenger, compared to 24 percent of similar workers in the South of the country.

With more manufacturing companies enacting a business strategy that relies on domestic labor as opposed to offshore resources, the importance of manufacturing to the economic health of the nation is not being underestimated. There have been signs that a manufacturing renaissance is underway, with data released on November 1 by the Institute for Supply Management showing that the industry had expanded for two consecutive months, while the recent increase in aircraft orders has helped to support an apparent slight downturn in car manufacturing.

The latest jobs figures released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics also indicated that the economy was moving forward, with 171,000 jobs added nationwide in October. Both candidates have made job creation and innovation a priority, while also seeking to reposition the U.S. as a global manufacturing force, a situation that seems ever more likely given the slowdown in growth in China and the woes of the eurozone.

"Innovation is what in the end leads to growth and new jobs, we think the focus on manufacturing is on target," wrote Gary Pisano, a Harvard business professor, in the Huffington Post. "And that will create a lot more jobs. Maybe not in the year immediately after the election, but in the decades to follow."