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Suggested Citation:"3 New Directions." National Research Council. 2004. New Directions in Manufacturing: Report of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11024.
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3
NEW DIRECTIONS

A theme that emerged from the workshop is that manufacturing has traditionally been and will remain an important element of the U.S. economy and society. Additionally, it is clear that the United States has a number of attributes that provide advantages to manufacturing companies working and pursuing business within its borders, including:

  • Unparalleled individual freedom and political stability;

  • An environment of safety and security;

  • An entrepreneurial business environment with relatively easy access to large and liquid capital markets, which promotes small business start up and creates an environment of innovation not found elsewhere;

  • A skilled workforce with a work ethic that favors high-salaried jobs;

  • Easy access to a large consumer market; and

  • A superior system of higher education at colleges and universities.

Whether or not there is a crisis in manufacturing remains a question for debate. Regardless of the answer, the federal government, specifically the Department of Commerce, holds the responsibility to develop a conceptual and comprehensive framework for support of domestic manufacturing. Such a framework can allow constructive debate of policies and legislation and can foster new attitudes and practices.

One of the important actions that the nation can take to achieve its objectives is to ensure that the United States remains an attractive place to locate businesses that create quality jobs and an attractive place for skilled employees to choose to live. The people of the United States and their government have a long-standing commitment to free and fair trade. Successful national economic policy has historically influenced in a variety of ways the choices companies and individuals make. Thus, many separate policies and practices may contribute to the creation of an attractive environment for manufacturing.

The following comments are offered by the committee for consideration:

1. Actions by federal, state, and local governments could maintain and improve the attractiveness of the United States as a location for production activities. The following general factors are of primary importance to the health of the manufacturing enterprise in the United States:

  • 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 regulation;

Suggested Citation:"3 New Directions." National Research Council. 2004. New Directions in Manufacturing: Report of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11024.
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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.

Suggested Citation:"3 New Directions." National Research Council. 2004. New Directions in Manufacturing: Report of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11024.
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Page 21
Suggested Citation:"3 New Directions." National Research Council. 2004. New Directions in Manufacturing: Report of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/11024.
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Page 22
Next: Part II Presented Papers: Manufacturing in the U.S. Economy4 Keynote Address: The Administration's Manufacturing Policy »
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The processes and techniques of manufacturing have changed substantially over the decades and that evolution continues today. In order to examine the potential impacts of these changes, the Department of Commerce asked the NRC to design a workshop to focus on issues central to the changing nature of manufacturing. The workshop brought together a number of experts to present papers about and to discuss the current state of manufacturing in the United States and the challenges it faces. This report presents the results of that workshop. Key challenges that emerged from the workshop and that are discussed include understanding manufacturing trends; manufacturing globalization; information technology opportunities; maintaining innovation; strengthening small and medium-sized enterprises; workforce education; and rising infrastructure costs.

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