Commerce.gov is getting a facelift soon. See the new design.
Syndicate content

Blog Category: Domestic Manufacturing

Make It and Move It

steel girder rails

Cross-posted on the NIST MEP blog

Without manufacturing, transportation would mean walking barefoot. Without transportation (and manufacturing), there would be no global economy. Fortunately for us, there are trains, trucks, planes, bikes and cars (and shoes!), all of which need to be made. So do bridges, roads, terminals, safety signs and tracks. All these seemingly disparate things work in concert to create the economic systems that keep America buying and selling and building and moving.

And, fortunately for our country, most, if not all, of the transportation infrastructure and supporting transportation equipment can and perhaps should be manufactured here. Transportation is not an end in itself. It’s a means to achieving American manufacturing and economic prosperity — a very big and very important means.

I know that American manufacturers can make anything and everything. The problem is matching manufacturing capability with long-term, predictable business opportunities that make sense.

Recently, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) teamed up to address some of the issues that have hampered the matching of opportunity with ability. The partnership was set up to find domestic manufacturing capacity for steel girder rails. Yes, steel girder rails. There are 60 cities in the United States that are planning, designing or constructing systems for street cars.  Yes, street cars. (If your mind just wandered off to the scene in Meet Me in St. Louis when Judy Garland sang, “the Trolley Song,” you’ve got the picture.)

Make It In America

Whip Hoyer discusses the Make It In America agenda with employees at Antenna Research Associates, Inc., a manufacturer in Maryland's fifth district.

Guest post by Rep. Steny Hoyer, Minority Whip of the U.S. House of Representatives

American manufacturing helped make this the most prosperous country on earth—and it helped build a strong middle class. As we continue to focus on job creation and economic growth, I believe a key part of that effort must be rebuilding our manufacturing strength. That’s why House Democrats have created the Make It In America agenda: it’s about creating the conditions for American businesses to innovate here, create jobs here, make products here, and sell them to the world—and about making sure we have a workforce qualified for well-paying jobs. I believe strongly that when we make more products in America, more families will be able to Make It In America, as well.

Even as much of our economy has struggled, the manufacturing sector has consistently added jobs—it’s been a bright spot for our recovery. But the news isn’t all good. Manufacturing employment is still near its lowest point since World War II. And more worryingly, the index of manufacturing activity—a measure of the sector’s productivity and growth—fell sharply last month, to its lowest point since fall of 2009.

Whether or not you work in manufacturing, that ought to concern you for a number of reasons. Manufacturing stimulates more activity across our whole economy than any other sector—so a fall in manufacturing activity is felt across the economy, which is bad for all of us. It’s also bad for the middle class because manufacturing jobs pay better-than-average wages, and it’s bad for America’s competitiveness because China has overtaken us as the world leader in the dollar value of manufacturing output. Last but not least, a decline in manufacturing is bad for American innovation.  As assembly lines move overseas, innovation often follows to be closer to production.  That’s resulted in America losing the innovative lead in a number of technological fields, from precision optics to photovoltaic cells to computer chips—we can’t afford to lose ground elsewhere.

Assistant Secretary Fernandez To Mayors: "Manufacturing Goes Hand-in-Hand with Innovation"

Assistant Secretary Fernandez Tells Mayor's "manufacturing goes hand in hand with innovation"

Guest Blog by John Fernandez, Assistant Secretary for Economic Development.

I had the pleasure of addressing the National Conference of Black Mayors 2011 Legislative Policy Summit in Washington, D.C. today. I focused on what the Obama administration is doing to grow local economic ecosystems and help create jobs, particularly in manufacturing.

The summit of almost 40 mayors from across the nation was a great opportunity for intergovernmental collaboration and provided an excellent platform to share best practices and discuss the challenges of creating jobs and increasing competitiveness. 

As a former mayor myself, I understood the pressing issues facing these leaders. They are the same issues the Obama administration is aggressively tackling at the federal level. And they all boil down to creating more jobs, particularly in manufacturing.

The manufacturing sector currently employs over 11 million Americans, providing good-paying jobs for millions of families. Preparing Americans to enter into the manufacturing sector will not only strengthen the economy and put folks back to work, it’s critical to our nation’s success as we compete in a 21st century global economy. 

Made in the USA – American Innovation

Richard Bogert, President and CEO, The Bogert Group

Guest blog by Richard W. Bogert, President and CEO, The Bogert Group

I grew up with the phrase “American Ingenuity” to describe the monumental accomplishments of our time. I grew up in a time that “Made in America” was the norm and made somewhere else meant inferior. We were proud to manufacture the best and supply the world. That was American Innovation and manufacturing might. We were the best at everything.

I started my company as a service business but soon realized that I was only trading hours for dollars.  I had limited myself because there are only so many hours in a day.  My income also fluctuated with the local economy. I turned to manufacturing because it was limitless and selling products on the global level insulated me from the ups and downs of my local economy. Starting with what I knew, Bogert Aviation became a FAA Certified parts manufacturer in 1986. My philosophy, “We are going to make the very best products – or we aren’t going to do it”.  Over the years we started other companies that manufacture a wide range of products. We call it the Bogert Group.  

I’ve got news for you. American Ingenuity and Innovation are alive and well. Most of the best new products and technologies have been created in the good old USA. Our young people are creative and inventive when encouraged.  We just need to create an environment that fosters innovative thought.

See video
Download the video: 
Read the transcript: 
Bogert transcript

Manufacturers Receive Presidential Award For Their Export Efforts

APS Biogroup Manufacturing Facility

Guest Blog Post by Laura Barmby, the Program Officer for the President’s "E" Awards.  In this capacity, she coordinates the submission and review of applications for this Presidential Award, working with an inter-agency committee.

Last month, Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke and Under Secretary Francisco Sánchez presented 27 U.S. companies, organizations, and institutions the President’s "E" Award for Exporting.  The "E" Award is the highest honor presented to exporters and acknowledges the significant contributions of the recipients in supporting U.S. exports.  This year marks 50 years since the establishment of the program by President Kennedy in 1961.
 
In honor of our nation’s manufacturers, I wanted to highlight for you a few of the companies that received the award this year that manufacture unique products.  What caught my attention was that this year we have three winners who took a product found in nature and improved it through a manufacturing process to make a great new product.

Here are a few things these companies have in common:

  • All take something from nature and make it into a product to support health and nutrition
  • All invest back into research and product development
  • All create jobs

Think about the jobs created by these companies:  farmers, scientists, assembly and manufacturing support, shipping, distribution, marketing.

If you have a product or service that you would like to export, visit Trade.gov to find out how to contact your nearest U.S. Export Assistance Center.  With 108 centers nationwide, exporting help is right around the corner!

Smarter Manufacturing Makes Businesses More Competitive

Sustainable Manufacturing Initiative logo

Guest blog post by Morgan Barr, an International Economist within the Manufacturing and Services division at the International Trade Administration. She works on sustainable manufacturing issues as well as negotiations for trade agreements.

The U.S. Department of Commerce’s Sustainable Manufacturing Initiative (SMI) has developed tools and resources to help companies, particularly small and medium sized enterprises, implement sustainable business practices faster and more effectively. The benefits to manufacturers include lower energy and resource costs, increased marketability of products and services and lower regulatory costs and risk.

The Sustainable Manufacturing Initiative developed a number of business friendly resources that are available through its website:

  • Sustainable Business Clearinghouse - This searchable clearinghouse provides information and links to almost 900 federal and state programs and resources dedicated to supporting sustainable business practices.  It includes everything from lean and green assessments, to training, to financial assistance for green improvements.  Users can search by government or non-governmental programs, geographic location, sustainability issue, industry sector and type of assistance.
  • OECD Sustainable Manufacturing Metrics Toolkit - This toolkit provides a simplified set of core sustainability metrics for facilities and products that any company can use to both measure performance and make decisions on improvement.
  • Sustainable Manufacturing 101 Training - This training can be used to train employees anywhere in the company from purchasing to the production line. It is designed to take users through the various aspects of the practice, from energy efficiency to designing for the environment to remanufacturing. This module is currently not available, but scheduled to be completed by October 2011 and will be available on the SMI website.

The More You Know: Key Statistics for Manufacturers and Exporters

Graphic of a spreadsheet overlaid with two charts

Economists, journalists, Wall Street executives and main street businesses as well as consumers look at a variety of economic indicators and data for information and to get a picture of how the economy is doing. The indicators above give us an idea of how our manufacturing sector is fairing in the turmoil of economic indicators that keep us on our toes every day.

Great sources for this information are right here within the Department of Commerce, through our Bureau of the Census (Business and Industry, Manufacturing) where we regularly release reports on sales, inventories, employment, job creation and capacity utilization.

Looking at today’s trade in goods and services numbers will show you a pretty good story about the state of America’s manufacturing sector. For instance, in the first four months of 2011, U.S. exports of manufacturing products increased by $56.9 billion (16.5 percent) to reach $401.4 billion up from $344.5 billion recorded in the first four months of 2010. Major growth categories by value in the first four months of 2011 include petroleum and coal products (up 66%), base chemicals (up 21%), nonferrous metal products (up 34.7%), motor vehicles (up 19%), and agricultural and construction machinery (up 25.4%).

To see where those exports are going, the International Trade Administration provides data and resources on trade statistics, including state and metro export data, profiles of exporting companies, as well as a nifty mapping tool that allows you to see the geographic reach of our exports by product or state. 

Information is golden and having the tools at your fingertips to sift through the relevant information and make sense of it yourself is a powerful advantage.

Expert Advice on Exporting from Successful Companies

As today’s trade numbers show, the appetite for American-made products abroad is growing rapidly. That’s why these five companies have made exporting part of their long-term growth strategy. They know that 95% of all consumers live outside the United States and therefore, the more markets they target, the more diversified their customer base will be. That strategy has served them well as they generally held up better during the recession than companies that didn't export.

But they also know some of the ups and downs for manufacturers just starting to export: concern about the language and cultural differences, not knowing where to start or how to make inroads into new markets, fear that foreign consumers won’t pay once the products leave the country.

And that’s why Jack Hollender, Dan Kleiman, Al Powers, Jason Speer and Terry Koehn agreed to share their experience. In the video below, each shares insight and expertise about getting started in exporting.

In addition to these wise words, the Department of Commerce’s National Export Initiative is designed to help more companies overcome these and other hurdles to exporting. To get their assistance, simply call 1-800-USA-TRADE or go online to Export.gov. Commerce Department experts will work with you to design and implement a market entry or expansion strategy, conduct an international search to find potential agents or distributors for your unique business and contact potential overseas businesses--all on your behalf. Many of these services are free or extremely low cost.

Manufacturing is Vibrant and Vital in America

Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke (center) announces the appointment of 24 members of the Manufacturing Council

Guest blog by Jennifer Pilat, Deputy Director for the Office of Advisory Committees within the International Trade Administration. She oversees the Manufacturing Council as well as a number of other private-sector advisory committees.

Superconductors and streetcars. Photovoltaic cells, cars and steel. Cardboard boxes, pharmaceuticals, linens. A vibrant manufacturing sector isn't just critical for the millions of Americans whose jobs depend on it, but is also absolutely central to driving the innovation that fuels the American economy. It is that belief that led U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke to appoint the private sector members that comprise the 2010 – 2012 Manufacturing Council. 

The Manufacturing Council serves as the principal private sector advisory committee to the Secretary of Commerce on the United States manufacturing sector and advises the Secretary on matters relating to the competitiveness of the manufacturing sector, and government policies and programs that affect U.S. manufacturers.

Secretary Locke recently designated Joe Anderson, Chairman and Chief Executive Office of TAG Holdings, LLC as the Chair of the Manufacturing Council and Chandra Brown, President of United Streetcar and Vice-President of Business Development and Government Relations of Oregon Iron Works as the Council Vice-Chair. 

The next Council meeting will be held in Clackamas, Oregon at the United Streetcar facility, where members will discuss the free trade agreements with Panama and Colombia, ideas for energy policy to support manufacturing, and educating and training the workforce needed to fill today’s available manufacturing jobs and those that will drive the future of American manufacturing. You can read more about the past work of the Council, on their website: http://www.manufacturing.gov/council. 

Secretary Locke Testifies Before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation About the Future of American Manufacturing

Secretary Locke testifies before the Senate about the future of American manufacturing

Secretary Locke started his testimony about the Future of American Manufacturing before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation by declaring, "The Obama administration believes that manufacturing is essential to America’s economic competitiveness. Manufacturing is a vital source of good middle-class jobs. And it is a key driver of innovation, with 70 percent of all private sector R&Dspending done by manufacturing companies. The United States is still the world’s largest and most productive manufacturer. On its own, U.S. manufacturing would rank today as the seventh-largest economy in the world. And just yesterday, it was reported that U.S. manufacturing activity hit its highest level since 2004.

But manufacturing productivity gains – which are so essential to growth – are partly responsible for millions of lost manufacturing jobs. Factories that once needed 1,000 people to build a product  can now do it with 100. Meanwhile, competitors abroad are consistently producing quality goods at less cost. America can’t escape this global competition. But we can win it, by leading the development of new industries and manufacturing higher value goods that the world's consumers demand.

See video