Commentary - Manufacturers need to capitalize on their perceived value to the economyWe don’t need a panel of cable news pundits to realize that America’s manufacturers were among the big winners of the national election.
By Bob Kill, Enterprise Minnesota president and CEO
We don’t need a panel of cable news pundits to realize that America’s manufacturers were among the big winners of the national election.
Just look at the political advertising. As the American economy still struggled to regain its economic mojo amid the expensive and mind-numbing (and largely irrelevant) barrage of negative political advertising this fall, several savvy politicians – of both parties – used their campaign messaging to emphasize that the path back to prosperity will be paved principally by manufacturers. That’s why so many of their positive campaign ads featured video footage of them visiting local manufacturing companies.
In Minnesota, two come to mind: Congressman Erik Paulsen used an ad that touted his leadership to successfully beat back a tax on medical manufacturers that might have been devastating to Minnesota’s nation-leading high tech sector. The legislation was supported by the entire Minnesota Congressional delegation.
Another ad, perhaps best among them, was created by the re-election campaign of U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar. In it, she emphasizes the value of manufacturing. “We can’t be a country anymore that just earns money on Wall Street and shuffles paper,” she said. “We have to be a country that makes stuff again, that invents things, that exports to the world.”
Bravo, Senator. Your ad reminds us all once again that good policy often produces the best politics.
So, it appears that support of manufacturing might become a non-partisan policy priority for elected officials at every level, from the part-time volunteer members of a town council to the person who occupies the Oval Office. They are coming to understand that people who “make stuff” sit at the crossroads of our whole economy. Manufacturers not only create jobs, they create steady, well-paying jobs that are increasingly the economic foundation of their local economies. They also help facilitate a huge integrated ecosystem of infrastructure of support industries, from bankers and accountants to transportation, energy, and a wide ecosystem around American innovation.
If I can offer just one bit of advice: Get to know your legislator or, better, make sure your legislator knows you. The Minnesota Legislature today is composed of many new members. They need to make a personal connection with their local manufacturing enterprises.
A visit by a legislator to your manufacturing floor – especially a new legislator – represents an opportunity to transform statistics and talking points about manufacturing into living, breathing, flesh-and-blood realities.
Elected officials likely already know the statistics, but they are worth repeating: Manufacturing is the third largest industry in Minnesota, employing almost 300,000 people. Manufacturing employees average $56,328 in annual compensation, 20 percent higher than the average wage for all industries. And if you factor in a multiplier of 1.9, manufacturing accounts for nearly one in every three jobs in Minnesota.
Nothing animates those stats like an in-person tour of your company. Enterprise Minnesota has helped organize hundreds of these meetings. The clean, high-tech processes of your manufacturing operation quickly debunk preconceptions of dark, dirty, boring jobs. Elected officials are impressed by the advanced skill sets required of many manufacturing jobs and genuinely shocked to learn that so many high-paying manufacturing jobs sit unfilled because they can’t find potential employees with an adequate level of training. And, they are impressed with the intricate, highly-sophisticated inter-relationships that comprise the modern manufacturing supply chain.
Elected officials also get another great surprise during their visits to manufacturers. While most every group in the state will fill its initial visits with an agenda of its legislative “needs and wants,” manufacturers want mostly to be left alone, to focus on serving their customers with high-quality products and services. In return, manufacturers can promise to do more than anybody to fill Minnesota’s top economic priorities: jobs, jobs, and jobs.