The State of Manufacturing Tour 2017 made a stop in Pittsburgh on February 28, 2017. The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), in partnership with the Allegheny Conference and the Pennsylvania Manufacturers Association (PMA), made the event possible. This town hall format featured NAM President and CEO, Jay Timmons; Ellwood Group Chairman, President and CEO David Barensfeld; Pittsburgh Regional Alliance President David Ruppersberger; and Plastics Industry Association President and CEO Bill Carteaux. The moderator was PMA’s President David Taylor.
It’s no secret that the manufacturing base played a significant role in determining the outcome of the presidential election, and now the base is anxiously awaiting changes that can propel the industry forward. U.S. manufacturers believe specific changes are needed in regulatory and tax reform, as well as trade, to allow them to be on a level playing field with their foreign competition.
Mr. Timmons cited a NAM study that indicated there are “297,696 specific regulations that impact manufacturers.” He noted that these regulations impede the efforts of U.S. companies and gives foreign companies an advantage. The regulations need to be smart and streamlined to help the companies be more efficient.
Tax reform was also mentioned both at the local and federal level. With both the Pennsylvania corporate rate and the federal rate being among the highest in the U.S. and world, respectively, it makes it more difficult for local companies to compete in the global marketplace. Tax reform is needed both in Harrisburg and Washington D.C. to help manufacturers lower their costs relative to their foreign competitors.
Mr. Barensfeld and Mr. Carteaux both also spoke on the need to train young people to give them the skills to work in this industry. Along with the training, the industry needs to change the perception about working in this field. Young people’s negative perception of manufacturing is based on antiquated ideas about the industry from generations long ago, but the reality is that a person can make a very good living working in manufacturing. Additionally, the speakers noted that there is significant opportunity for jobs based on the shortage of skilled labor, coupled with the retirement of the baby boomers.
I think what I heard from the manufacturing tour is that there is a great opportunity in front of us for the manufacturing industry. It needs some help from the government and educators to train the work force, but manufacturing is on the upswing. Specifically, in the greater Pittsburgh region, we are blessed with natural gas resources and are primed for development. The Shell cracker plant is just the beginning for manufacturing growth for the region.
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