To listen to most discussions of U.S. manufacturing these days one would not be faulted for believing that we have turned the ship of decline around, that production jobs are coming back and that the on-shoring good times are finally here. Unfortunately this storyline does not hold up to critical analysis.
Singapore Looks to a National Productivity Strategy to Maintain Growth
Singapore has a remarkable history of economic growth, proving doubters wrong. Currently they are pursuing a range of deliberate policies to help private industry increase productivity and keep the small nation competitive and growing.
“Fab Lab” Bill Would Stimulate Manufacturing Innovation
Congressman Bill Foster (D-IL) introduced The National Fab Lab Network Act of 2013 (H.R. 1289), which would create a federal charter for a non-profit organization called “The National Fab Lab Network” (NFLN). NFLN would act as a public-private partnership whose purpose is to facilitate the creation of a national network of fab labs and serve as a resource to assist stakeholders with their effective operation. As ITIF writes in Fifty Ways to Leave Your Competitiveness Woes Behind: A National Traded Sector Competitiveness Strategy, there are several additional steps policymakers should take to foster the maker movement in addition to supporting Congressman Foster’s Fab Lab bill.
Technology is Not the Problem — It Is the Solution
While productivity-enhancing technologies sometimes result in short-term job loss, rather than make misguided arguments, pundits should embrace technology-led productivity, while at the same time promoting policies that can assist workers in adjusting to the changing environment. This includes stronger investments in retraining and applied technology programs and reforms to our current unemployment safety net, which is full of holes. Fundamentally, the continued expansion of technology and innovation is necessary for the growth and expansion of 21st century society. By embracing the machine we are all better off.
What’s the Right Path for Manufacturing?
Any effective manufacturing strategy has to include a robust “tech and talent” initiative, which would include a fully funded NNMI, a new system of “manufacturing universities” that promote training and applied research, stronger tax incentives for companies to invest in R&D, workforce training and new machinery and equipment.