TIME Magazine features our favorite topic: Made in the USA
When I walk between work and D.C.'s metro each day, I pass over a number of manhole covers, each made of sturdy cast iron and branded proudly (I imagine) "Made in the USA." I notice it because seeing those words featured so prominently anymore seems ... well ... rare.
TIME Magazine, however, features that exact phrase prominently on its cover this week.
The accompanying story makes the case that manufacturing in the United States is indeed making a comeback, even if the numbers do not yet support it.
Writers Rana Foroohar and Bill Saporito state the familiar arguments - wages are rising in developing countries, energy costs are cheaper in the United States, proximity to the factory allows for flexibility and easier/quicker changes to orders and designs, etc.
But they also highlight something most articles on the "manufacturing renaissance" skip: the multiplier effect.
Labor statistics actually shortchange the importance of manufacturing because they mainly count jobs inside factories, and related positions in, say, Ford's marketing department or at small business doing industrial design or creating software for big exporters don't get tallied.
To this end, the writers make an interesting case for why high-tech manufacturing jobs are actually creating more jobs than we realize. While a company may hire a fifth of the factory workforce that it used to need, it makes up for some of these jobs by hiring individuals to create the software and other tools necessary for the factory workforce to do its job. (This, of course, doesn't even take into account all the subsequent jobs in spin-off jobs -- in packaging, shipping, and transit, for example.)
Manufacturing represents a whopping 67% of private-sector R&D spending as well as 30% of the country's productivity growth. Every $1 of manufacturing activity returns $1.48 to the economy.
And it's this kind of return on investment that has led to pushes on both the state and federal level for alliances among government, industry, and the educational system. With good reason, it was such an alliance that generated such advances as additive manufacturing.
In the coming months, we'll no doubt see the manufacturing sector ebb and flow. President Obama has promised 1 million new manufacturing jobs in his second term and has suggested the creation of manufacturing institutes across the country to achieve this. Congressman Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and House Democrats have rolled out a suite of proposals intended to further jumpstart manufacturing, and Apple and other major companies have announced new stateside jobs. However, we're still hemorrhaging manufacturing jobs at a rate that makes gains seems impossible.
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