By Jeff Burnstein, President, RIA
I was talking to 2011 Engelberger Robotics Award winner Henrik Christensen the other day about our efforts in Washington when he suggested I read this book by Andrew Liveris, Chairman and CEO of Dow Chemical Company.
I recognized Liveris’ name because he is the co-chair of the new Advanced Manufacturing Partnership that the Obama administration recently created and plans to fund to the tune of $500 million. This was announced at the same time as the new National Robotics Initiative, and I remember wondering who Andrew Liveris was.
I’m wondering no longer — the guy has great ideas on how to reinvent manufacturing in the United States First he lays out why manufacturing is so critical to our success as a nation, then he outlines what we need to do in order to revive it and why it has to be done now, before it’s too late.
As we watch the partisan political fighting that often seems to hold our government hostage, consider these insights from Liveris: “…it’s a false choice to say you can be either pro-business or pro-government. The old ways of thinking don’t apply to the new global economy. Indeed, today more than ever before, being pro-government is a prerequisite for being pro-business. They must work in concert.” Then, later “We cannot afford to get stuck in the same tired old debate between pure free-market philosophy and state socialism – as if those are the only two economic models from which to choose.”
He compellingly outlines that it is global competition, not gains in productivity (in other words, don’t blame automation) for the manufacturing job losses the U.S. has suffered He then asserts: “We aren’t losing manufacturing jobs because we are getting better at this stuff. We are losing them because we aren’t competing for them, because around the globe, other countries have stepped up to attract companies to build facilities in their cities, while the United States has wrongfully assumed that its status as the world’s only superpower would somehow save the day. An Economic Policy Institute study concluded that as many as 1.78 million jobs lost since 1998 in manufacturing were due to the trade deficit – the direct result of competing against imports from other countries any suggestion otherwise is simply not tethered to reality.”
Finally, he lays out an ambitious agenda for short-term and long-term steps the U.S. can take to revive manufacturing. He outlines five key objectives: making it easier for businesses to keep or locate their operations in the U.S.; remake the manufacturing sector with a focus on advanced, high-value products; create an economy that can sustain itself, and can, in turn, produce long term job-creation and economic growth; prepare the next generation’s workforce for the changing economy; and improve America’ global competitiveness, both in the short and long term.
I urge you to read the book to find out what Liveris proposes to accomplish these objectives. He has the President’s ear, and you’re going to want to know what he’s whispering!