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  • Support for standards such as those for data exchange and production quality;

  • Tax incentives for investment in production activities;

  • Strengthened public-private partnerships; and

  • A heavy commitment to improved education and training at all levels, including the critical K-12 years and the continued training of incumbent workers.

2. Because these ideas have implications beyond the manufacturing sector, their implementation would need further investigation of alternatives and consequences. As a first step, improved understanding of the underlying issues and the challenges facing U.S. manufacturers could encourage government responses that are more prudent, more targeted, and more likely to succeed. A number of metrics are routinely used as the basis for federal policies and legislation, and it is very important that these measures be well understood in order for them to be useful. Such indicators as the percentage of the manufacturing sector’s contribution to the gross domestic product; the level of manufacturing orders; industrial production and capacity utilization; labor productivity; income and compensation; and energy production and prices may not be adequate for understanding the underlying issues. Both the measurement strategy and the measured information, and the ways they have changed over time, complicate the interpretation and understanding of the information. Whereas some trends are easily seen in retrospect, it is unclear whether or not the measures currently in use accurately reflect the state of and trends in the economy as a whole or the manufacturing sector in particular.

3. The United States currently maintains superior service in several supporting infrastructure systems that are susceptible to environmental degradation or terrorist attacks and must be protected to maintain their uninterrupted function. Maintaining and improving the supporting infrastructure for manufacturing is important for a healthy manufacturing sector. These critical services encompass transportation, including land, sea, and air; information systems, including telephone and broadband; and power systems, including electricity and natural gas.

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