Manufacturing must be a major force in the U.S. economic recovery

October 31, 2011

Throughout much of the 2000s, companies engaged in the manufacturing sector of the U.S. were not prospering. According to the Florida Times-Union, over 42,000 industrial facilities were closed between 2000 and 2005, and this era, as well as the years that followed, marked the disappearance of approximately one-third of the nation's manufacturing positions, or about 5.5 million jobs total.

More recent projections have suggested that a recovery may be on the way, however. At the beginning of October 2011, Bloomberg reported that the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) index rose by an unexpected 1 percent between August and September, from 50.6 to 51.6.  

A subsequent report by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve found that industrial production increased by 0.2 percent during the same period. This contributed to an annual rate increase of 5.1 percent for the third quarter of the year.

After taking all of this data into account – both the difficulties of the past and the positive developments of the present – leaders of businesses in the U.S. manufacturing sector will see that they need to do all within their power to ensure that all gains made are continued.  Although certain factors that contributed to past problems are beyond their control, such as the recession that raged from 2007 to 2009, company heads must make sure that they do not contribute to such an economic occurrence through mistakes or even simple inaction.

The Florida Times-Union reports that according to Andrew Liveris, CEO of Dow Chemical, some of the changes that can support a manufacturing resurgence may require U.S. legislation. In that regard, manufacturing company leaders and employees can contribute by petitioning their local lawmakers to support those legal measures, as is the right of any American citizen, which could include increased tax credits for domestic manufacturing and related research and development.

Using their own powers as managers or executives, manufacturing leaders must also make jobs in their companies attractive to skilled individuals. Offers of competitive salaries, comprehensive health benefits and other incentives may be helpful. After all, talented, innovative and hard-working employees are the backbone of any manufacturing company. Even with the prevalence of various advanced technologies, that fact is not likely to change.

One of the detriments to U.S. manufacturing has been the outsourcing of production facilities to foreign countries. That trend has begun to slowly reverse, to some extent – in the meantime, sector companies can consider temporarily forgoing the possibility of saving money through outsourcing and spending the capital to improve their domestic production capabilities, as it may be more beneficial to their employees and their financial bottom line in the future.