Don't Retreat from Manufacturing

I see analogies between the current path we are on as a nation and what I saw occur with big steel.

[Re: "Manufacturing Death Greatly Exaggerated,"
death_greatly_exaggerated_23524.aspx, Dec. 27, 2010
I don't believe we as a nation should retreat from "lower-level" manufacturing. Assembly-line workers can perform many complicated tasks. While there are many rote jobs in assembly lines, the truth is there are many people who only have a desire, skills and education for such jobs.

I like manufacturing jobs because they create wealth. Without manufacturing jobs, all we do is trade dollars. The pool of dollars we trade with decreases when we have trade deficits. These lower-skilled employees can make $10 working in the service industry, or they can make $10 on an assembly line. At least on the assembly line they are helping to build wealth in addition to earning their wages. Also, by manufacturing here we reduce the number of dollars going overseas to communist countries such as China.

I worked in the steel industry out of college, then a little known company at the time [that] built Nucor Steel's plant in Crawfordsville, Ind.

I went to work for Nucor and we revolutionized the flat-rolled steel industry. At that time, we fought "big steel." Big steel retreated from rebar, structural shapes, bars, squares, etc. ... until there was nothing else to retreat from except flat rolled which was their last remaining bastion.

For the record, Inland Steel, LTV Steel, Bethlehem Steel, National Steel, Weirton Steel, Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel and Acme Steel don't exist anymore.

I see analogies between the current path we are on as a nation and what I saw occur with big steel. These other countries are motivated, smart and possess massive infrastructures. If we continue to retreat to higher and higher levels, we'll go the way big steel did.

As a nation, we have to level the playing field. Chinese mills don't follow the same environmental restrictions as U.S. mills, which boils down to costs. Same for workers' compensation, OSHA, and let's not forget currency manipulation.

David J. Johnson
Chief Metallurgist
Paragon Industries Inc.
Sapulpa, Okla.

TAGS: Talent
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