Letters to the Editor For July 2009

Putting manufacturing front and center on the national agenda

Recognize Manufacturing

Re: "First Up: Sweating the Big Stuff -- and It's All Big Stuff" (June 2009)

Why doesn't the U.S. government recognize manufacturing like it does agriculture and commerce?

We really need to have manufacturing be in Washington, D.C., and tell them what's going on in industry.

Thank you, Steve Minter, for a great article. Keep up the fight for manufacturing in America!

Roger Sustar
President
Fredon Corp.
Mentor, Ohio

A 10-point Plan for Manufacturing

While I agree with the premise of the article that manufacturing must be placed back on the "mantle of importance" in the U.S., it must be done intelligently. That means the free market should dictate its overall capacity, size and industries served. It should not, cannot be one person (a czar); for Pete's sake, enough of the "czar" stuff already!

So how do we help manufacturing?

  1. For starters, put a halt to the Chinese manipulating their currency. Remove all trade barriers that keep us out of other markets. We (U.S. Manufacturing) must have access to your markets, the same way you have access to ours!
  2. Become energy-independent -- NOW! Start drilling for oil, gas, etc. Businesses and households cannot tolerate wild swings in their energy costs.
  3. Demand from our educators that all graduating high school kids meet minimum criteria with regard to math, English and reading skills. You don't pass, you don't collect $200 ... off to remedial classes you go until you pass!
  4. The issue of affordable private health care must be addressed. For too long businesses have born the financial and management burdens of this demographic debacle (i.e., too many users not paying anything into the system).
  5. Intellectual property and the pursuit of it must be simplified and enforceable. "Engineering around a patent" can no longer be tolerated. If a company is to invest in new ideas, methods and technologies, it must be assured of a fair return.
  6. One quality-assurance standard that serves the aerospace, auto and medical industries. The myriad of quality programs today is not sustainable... they add way too much cost and bring little value.
  7. Trade schools must be restarted and cannot become a dumping ground for the "misfits" or underachievers. This industry needs the best and the brightest in order to compete globally, and the industry must be able to pay them accordingly.
  8. The government must realize that the more regulations/taxes and hoops that they demand industry jump through, the more they discourage investment.
  9. Unions and labor have to realize that they must become more flexible in their demands; what worked 30 years ago does not work in a global economy. For example, that means your job skills must be more diverse and you will be held to a higher standard.
  10. Finally, the marketing case for manufacturing must be made. For too long we have been told that "WE DON'T NEED MANUFACTURING." We are going to be the innovators, the managers and marketers; only the intelligent need apply. Well I have news folks: You are not going to be any of those unless you have a thorough knowledge of what your industry demands/needs and how to deliver a response (product or service). That is something they cannot teach you in a two-year M.B.A. program. It takes decades of working in a specific discipline to be competent.

Is it too late? For my kids' sake, I certainly hope not.

Gil Martello
Path Technologies Inc.
Painesville, Ohio

National Priorities

[Regarding the national priorities for manufacturing developed by the U.S. Manufacturing Council,] the first of the "priorities" -- energy independence -- was abandoned after the 70's "investment" funding research and awarding grants, substantially to the major players in energy and entrusting industry for results.

The second priority: "correct trade imbalances"... "broad national initiatives were needed to build a skilled workforce and to eliminate cost disadvantages."

The "skilled workforce" translates into the capture of all knowledge (Google's initiative digitizing and controlling all the world's printed matter), making it accessible only to knowledge workers -- academia. Even today the cost for reading one journal article, unless you are affiliated with an institution that can pay the subscriptions, is prohibitive for anyone outside academia. So a new divide is growing between those who have access to knowledge and those who are denied.

The other initiative --"... to eliminate domestic cost disadvantages... " -- is playing out quickly: "...a lower standard of living than we enjoyed," a level labor-cost playing field with the world, allowing immigrant labor to flourish and spiral wages down.

Kind of skewed, isn't it?

Westley Wood
New York, N.Y.

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