This afternoon, Commerce Secretary Bryson delivered keynote remarks  at the Steel Manufacturers Association (SMA) 2012 Annual Members conference, where he discussed the importance of the steel industry and the administration’s efforts to support U.S. manufacturers.
As the Secretary said, this administration understands the importance of supporting U.S. manufacturers. When President Obama came into office, the United States was at risk of losing over one million auto industry jobs. The ripple effect on the supply chain would have been devastating, potentially eroding the U.S. manufacturing base and driving the economy from a deep recession into depression. Instead, due to the president’s leadership, the auto industry survived and is now thriving, adding more than 200,000 jobs over the last two and one-half years.
There is an inextricable link between America’s ability to produce and America’s ability to innovate, compete and create jobs. Manufacturing is responsible for 70 percent of U.S. private sector R&D, 90 percent of patents, and 60 percent of our exports. In addition, the Commerce Department released a report just last week showing that manufacturing workers earn pay and benefits about 17 percent higher than other workers.
It’s clear that we must continue to take smart, strategic steps to strengthen American manufacturing. We need to build on partnerships that already work, including those between government and the private sector. For example the Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has hundreds of Standard Reference Materials–SRMs–which help with the manufacturing process and quality control in this industry.
Even in a time of tight budgets, key federal investments in manufacturing are critical. That’s why the president has called to double the basic research budgets of NIST labs, the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy Office of Science. His 2013 proposed budget includes $2.2 billion in R&D specifically for advanced manufacturing, a 19 percent increase, and would also include $100 million in new funding for NIST overall, a 14 percent increase.
Continued collaboration between steel manufacturers, researchers, and policymakers is crucial. Already, American manufacturers have added nearly a half-million manufacturing jobs over the past two years–after a decade in which the United States lost too many jobs in manufacturing. Today, we can build on that momentum in a number of ways, such as reforming the corporate tax code to make tax policies work for manufacturers and attracting more investment to the U.S.
Secretary Bryson noted that May is World Trade Month , and it has never been more important to empower U.S. manufacturers to start or increase their exports. In 2011, the U.S. had an all-time record of $2.1 trillion in U.S. exports. About $1.3 trillion of that was manufactured goods. Just last week, the Commerce Department announced that April of this year were up over eight percent from the same period in 2011. Steel mill exports grew even faster–at over 13 percent in value. To build on that, the president has opened up new markets and reduced tariffs through new agreements in Korea  and, as of today, Colombia .
This administration will continue to support smart, strategic actions that help the steel industry succeed, such as by continuing to call for stronger investments in infrastructure. The United States has a unique opportunity to foster a renaissance in American manufacturing. This is the time to come together, exchange ideas and find new ways to empower businesses.