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Department of Commerce, is the logical home for the development of such a strategy.

The workshop participants discussed a number of issues. Foremost among them was the observation that the United States has long had a number of advantages for attracting manufacturing businesses, including personal freedom, political stability, an entrepreneurial business environment, a skilled and educated workforce, and access to large consumer markets. However, to ensure that the United States remains an attractive place to locate manufacturing businesses, the country must consider the supporting infrastructure for manufacturing. In many cases, this infrastructure is aging and may become unreliable or outdated. This has already happened for the power grid and is expected to happen for our crumbling bridges. An important question is how manufacturers can reduce the risks associated with operating in the United States.

Actions by federal, state, and local governments could contribute to the attractiveness of the United States as a location for production activities. Suggestions for such actions raised during the course of the workshop include:

  • Available and reasonably priced health care for all;

  • Sustained and increased support for small and medium-sized enterprises;

  • Continued attention to the costs of compliance with regulations;

  • 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.

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. In this respect, 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. 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 and trends in the economy as a whole or the manufacturing sector.

It is also important for a healthy manufacturing sector that the supporting infrastructure for manufacturing is maintained and improved. The United States currently maintains superior service in such areas as transportation, including land, sea, and air; information systems, including telephone and broadband; and power systems, including electricity and natural gas. As these provide the foundation for the manufacturing enterprise, workshop participants observed that they need to be upgraded and protected against terrorist attacks.

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