U.S. Senators issue call for federal manufacturing policy

Letter to President Obama calls for investment in emerging technologies, support for communities in transition, improved market access for U.S. exports and fostering of entrepreneurial talent.

A bipartisan group of 10 U.S. Senators sent a letter to President Barack Obama on March 1, urging the adoption of a national manufacturing policy.

"The loss of manufacturing plants and jobs has stifled economic opportunity for middle class families and compromised our ability to compete in the 21st century economy," the Senators wrote. "We are convinced that the recovery and long-term health of our economy depend on a strong, competitive U.S. industrial manufacturing base," the Senators wrote.

The Senators also expressed support for the basic approach laid out in the Obama Administrationís "A Framework for Revitalizing American Manufacturing."

"We need a multi-industry strategy to propel job and economic growth, one that deploys federal resources and private-public partnerships to promote emerging manufacturing opportunities," the Senators continued. Elements of an integrated policy strategy include "developing a highly skilled and productive workforce, investing in new and emerging technologies, ensuring stable capital markets, providing support for communities in transition, strengthening infrastructure, improving market access for U.S. exports, and fostering entrepreneurial talent."

The letter was signed by Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Christopher Dodd (D-CT), Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Thad Cochran (R-MS), Jack Reed (D-RI), Carl Levin (D-MI), Bob Casey (D-PA), Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)

"Manufacturing helped build the middle class and must play a critical role in our economic recovery," Brown said. "The manufacturing industry provides good-paying jobs and has a strong multiplier effect. We're one of the only industrialized countries without a national manufacturing policy, and we're paying the price for it. We need to help manufacturers access credit so they can expand operations and hire new workers. We need to ensure domestic manufacturers can compete globally. And we need to help manufacturers retool so they can produce the components we'll need to address 21st century energy and national security challenges."

"Given that manufacturing supported approximately 18.6 million jobs in the United States last year, it is clear that, despite the prognostications of some, American manufacturing is not dead," Snowe said. "Yet because of the unique challenges the sector faces, it is more critical than ever that we invest in a comprehensive policy to revitalize the industry. I hope that the letter my colleagues and I are sending to the President today will spur his Administrationís urgent action to put into place critical policies that encourage manufacturers to invest in new plant equipment, create well-paying jobs, and help turnaround our struggling economy."

"We've lost nearly 6 million U.S. manufacturing jobs in last decade. As a result, our nation's industrial base and technical expertise is eroding. We must act now to regain our competitive edge by developing a national strategy to strengthen our manufacturing base," Bingaman said. "Doing so will allow us to position the United States as a leader in the development of clean energy technologies, creating innovative jobs, while helping solve some our most challenging energy problems."

Text of the letter follows.

 

March 1, 2010

The President
The White House
Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear Mr. President,

The global economic crisis poses new challenges to American manufacturing.  The U.S. manufacturing sector is the worldís largest, but it will not remain so unless our nation acts, and acts now, to reverse its decline.  The loss of manufacturing plants and jobs has stifled economic opportunity for middle class families and compromised our ability to compete in the 21st century economy.  Indeed, for the last several decades, administrations have passed up critical opportunities to formulate a rational and comprehensive manufacturing policy.  Continued apathy will undermine our countryís ability to achieve energy independence and place our military readiness at risk.

We are convinced that the recovery and long-term health of our economy depend on a strong, competitive U.S. industrial manufacturing base.  Therefore we appreciate your release late last year of ìA Framework for Revitalizing American Manufacturing.î The framework represents a thoughtful approach to recognizing manufacturingís importance to the middle class, our energy security, and our national defense.

In particular, we agree with many of the basic strategies for reinvigorating U.S. manufacturing as outlined in Section III of the framework.  Developing a highly skilled and productive workforce, investing in new and emerging technologies, ensuring stable capital markets, providing support for communities in transition, strengthening infrastructure, improving market access for U.S. exports, and fostering entrepreneurial talent are all significant elements of an integrated policy strategy.

Without an adequate commitment of resources and coordination among every executive branch department, we are afraid that the tenets of this framework may not be appropriately fulfilled. We would therefore respectfully request additional information about how the Administration is putting these strategies to work, including specific goals, detailed initiatives supporting those goals, and performance measures to help ensure continuous progress.

We recognize that moving forward promptly to support manufacturing companies and workers can speed Americaís recovery. Historically, the manufacturing sector has led the American economy out of recession. For instance, the auto industry contributed significantly to the economic recovery following the recession of the early 1980s.  Today we need a multi-industry strategy to propel job and economic growth, one that deploys federal resources and private-public partnerships to promote emerging manufacturing opportunities.

Today, nothing is more imperative than putting Americans back to work. We believe it will take a coordinated effort to assist Americaís entrepreneurs, innovators, and workers by advancing policies that enhance U.S. manufacturing, increase U.S. competitiveness and export opportunities, and protect the quality of life for all Americans.

We look forward to working with you to promote U.S. manufacturing on behalf of working families and the manufacturers who employ them, and in support of our nationís continued global leadership.

Sincerely,

Sherrod Brown                                   Lindsey Graham                     Christopher J. Dodd
United States Senator                        United States Senator            United States Senator

Olympia J. Snowe                               Debbie Stabenow                   Thad Cochran
United States Senator                         United States Senator            United States Senator

Jack Reed                                           Carl Levin                               Robert P. Casey
United States Senator                         United States Senator            United States Senator

Jeff Bingaman                                     Sheldon Whitehouse
United States Senator                         United States Senator