There’s been a good bit of press lately on Obama’s emphasis on restoring the U.S. manufacturing sector. While much of the conversation surrounds the politics of the campaign, the issue is very real and I’ve written frequently about it here on Innovation Avenue. But what hasn’t gotten as much
attention is whether or not revitalizing our manufacturing base can definitively lower unemployment and bring higher wages for workers.
In fact a WashingtonPost article in its Business Section explores this issue by asking “Can factory jobs really revive the economy”? Personally, I believe that the answer is probably somewhere more in the middle, when manufacturing does return to the U.S., it helps spawn new innovation, creates opportunities for other entrepreneurs and, most intangibly but extremely important, restores a sense of energy among the communities where manufacturers set up shop.
To be sure, the question ultimately boils down to policy and dollars; where should the U.S. government put its limited resources and how much should just be left to the markets (or regulations lifted/not made to allow the markets to determine the best strategy). The answer to these questions are really what this election will determine, and what then happens in the next four years.
Along the way, however, there are some things that can happen that could have a positive and dramatic impact on our ability to create new and revitalize existing manufacturing here. One idea that I’ve suggested before is to have a national executive in charge of economic development.
Beyond the efforts of the Department of Commerce officials, an Executive Director for U.S. Economic Development would have the authority to not just promote bringing new companies to the country, but could coordinate and offer the many incentives that already exist, but are oftentimes not deployed in a strategic way when attempting to attract new industry, or expanding existing ones. While this is typically a State approach, and wherein their competitiveness can actually work against our capability to bring businesses to the US, a nationally coordinated effort would surely be more competitive and offer greater potential to land manufacturers looking to build and invest in production facilities.
As we head into the dog days of Summer, I hope we’ll get a chance to hear more about specific strategies for restoring our competitiveness and the strategy to grow important manufacturing opportunities for the U.S. I hope that you’ll join me in anticipating this conversation and being involved in it.