Most politicians are clueless about manufacturing, as evidenced by their support for regulations and taxes that put U.S. manufacturers at a competitive disadvantage, said executives speaking at a manufacturing summit in Cleveland Monday.

The executives, representing steel service centers and other metals providers, offered their insight into key presidential election issues at the event hosted by the Metals Service Center Institute.  The summit took place at the headquarters of tooling components manufacturer Jergens Inc.

Uncertainty is one of the manufacturing industry’s biggest enemies, said Robert Lapp, vice president of government affairs and community relations for Canton, Ohio-based Timken Co. (IW 500/197. Nobody in the industry knows what taxes, health care and regulations will cost in the upcoming year, he said.

A more simplified tax structure that includes a repatriation holiday could encourage more manufacturers to invest in the U.S., said Karla Lewis, executive vice president and CFO for metals service center Reliance Steel & Aluminum Co. (IW 500/124). Lewis said companies with overseas operations are “trapped” because they don’t want to be double taxed if they bring their profits back to the U.S.

Lapp agreed, saying he would like to bring money back from offshore operations, but the cost is too high. Research and development tax credits would make the U.S. more competitive as well, Lapp said.