State Gathering Focuses On Future Of Manufacturing

Paul Fogleman,

Manufacturing in America is experiencing a renaissance because “romance and glamour reside in making things, participants at the annual Emerging Issues Forum were assured.

Andrew Liveris, president, chairman and CEO of Dow Chemical Co., told some 1,000 business leaders, politicians, and educators gathered in Raleigh that manufacturing expands the capacity to innovate. “Where production goes, innovation flows,” he allowed.

Liveris warned that the renaissance for manufacturing is fragile. Orders are up, outsourcing is declining, but uncertainty in Europe and Washington is hampering a full recovery.

North Carolina lost 115,000 manufacturing jobs since the turn of the century and has regained only 11,000. Each manufacturing job has a multiplier effect of three to five other jobs in service and supply chain businesses, he said.

The U.S. government has been a roadblock to growth in manufacturing, Liveris asserted. “In China, manufacturing gets the red carpet; in Washington manufacturers get red tape … an advanced vision for manufacturing doesn’t start on its own; it’s within our power to make it happen … .”

Liveris said the vision for American manufacturing should include an energy policy. Dow, he said, spends $21 million for energy and the public should be as concerned about energy as it is with food and security.

Also, the U.S. should have a policy to address the “human capital deficit.” Developing a trained, motivated workforce should be a priority.

And finally the Dow chairman said there needs to be a change in the business climate. He said 60 government agencies are monitoring Dow operations from revenue to environment to safety.

China has a five-year plan to become leader in five strategic manufacturing sectors, Liveris concluded. The U.S. should be as concerned about preserving and promoting its manufacturing, he said.

Following the keynote address by Liveris, Tom Kurfess, assistant director for Advanced Manufacturing in the Executive Office of the President, suggested that the administration has gotten the message.

Kurfess said the department recognizes that while the U.S. leads in research and development, other countries are rapidly catching up. In addition to research and development, the use of robotics, new products, and skilled personnel are shaping the future of manufacturing, he said.

Training for 21st century manufacturing will be a key component for preserving manufacturing, the federal official said. “In times of change, the learners inherit the earth.”

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