On July 8, Senator Gary Peters of Michigan introduced legislation proposing a new independent federal institute, the National Institute of Manufacturing. The bill received statements of support from industry groups, including the Association for Equipment Manufacturers, the Alliance for American Manufacturing, and the American Foundry Society.
The bill proposes the new institute would be led by a Chief Manufacturing Officer, whose chief responsibility would be to create and implement a “National Strategic Plan for Manufacturing” for the executive branch. The institute would also serve as a kind of hub for various federal manufacturing programs currently spread across multiple agencies, with an eye towards navigating near-term supply chain issues surrounding the novel coronavirus pandemic as well as long-term issues of national manufacturing strategy.
Senator Peters, a member of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, said that manufacturers and their employees have seen underwhelming federal support through the current “piecemeal approach.”
“The need for a new, bold approach to revitalize American manufacturing has never been more evident,” said Peters. “We must address vulnerabilities in our supply chain that have been further exposed by the coronavirus pandemic and reduce our reliance on foreign manufacturers.”
Leaders from various trade groups concurred on the need for stable, domestic supply chains and competitiveness. Doug Kurkul, CEO of the American Foundry Society, said the coronavirus pandemic “has underscored how dependent the United States is on potentially unstable foreign sources of critical manufactured products. The time is right to emphasize supply chain security.” He also said the bill would have a positive impact on Michigan’s economy and noted the region’s sizeable metalcasting footprint.
Dennis Slater, President of the Association of Equipment Manufacturers, commended the bill and said it would improve efficiency in funding programs and “ensure that the federal government is better positioned to respond to rapid changes in the global manufacturing landscape.”
Other trade groups paid more attention to the long-term impact the move would have on manufacturing support. The President of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, Scott Paul, said that shoring up the United States’ critical manufacturing capacity would “better prepare us for the next crisis” as well as “create jobs and boost the economy.” In a statement, Paul wrote that increased coordination between government agencies and a strategic plan were good steps towards “rebuilding our industrial base.”
Senior VP at Morbark John Foote also praised the initiative, saying it would fill the need “for a more strategic approach to ensure that the manufacturing sector and its workforce receives the resources and leadership they need.”
The bill would also renew and “elevate” the National Manufacturing Council. Established by the International Trade Administration in 2004 to serve as a private sector advisor to the Secretary of Commerce, the Council has not met since August 3, 2016. According to AEM, there are currently 58 manufacturing-related programs across more than 10 agencies, complicating existing efforts to total federal investment in manufacturing.