Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

U.S. Needs to Lead in Manufacturing

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

U.S. Needs to Lead in Manufacturing

Article excerpt

When it comes to America's manufacturing sector, there is no better expert than a man who came to this country for the opportunity.

Andrew Liveris rose to become CEO of Dow Chemical. And he says this country is rapidly falling behind its competitors overseas. He calls it a crisis.

It doesn't take much investigation. The facts are startling.

- More than 42,000 factories were closed in the United States between 2000 and 2005.

- One-third of all manufacturing jobs, 5.5 million, have disappeared.

- Of the more than 1 billion cell phones manufactured in 2008, not one was made here.

- For every Apple worker in America, there are 10 Apple workers in China.

Our innovations can't survive without the manufacturing base. If we don't turn this around, we will watch our innovation move overseas, too.

"At that point, America's reign as an economic superpower will essentially be over; we will be without innovative new ideas and without the means to turn them into valuable products," Liveris writes.

We can't survive on ideas alone.

Until we face up to that fact, we will continue to fall behind.

"We have allowed our manufacturing base to deteriorate, and we haven't done enough to revive it," he writes in his book, "Make it in America: The Case for Re-inventing the Economy."

SERVICE NOT ENOUGH

Our nation cannot prosper with the service sector as its primary business. Manufacturing has a multiplier effect on the economy.

Liveris says that the new economic model means that countries are competing now. Countries are offering incentives to attract new industries, just like states and cities do. America offer incentives? Who would have thought?

The idea that the United States would have to offer incentives sounds like heresy to most of us - but it's the bare truth.

"When I go to Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel asks me what Germany can do to attract more Dow investment," Liveris writes. "But in the United States, these are not the questions you ever get asked by national political leaders."

Imagine: 600,000 chemical manufacturing jobs have moved from the United States to overseas.

"Governments are boosting business, creating a climate that attracts and rewards investment, spurs innovation and job creation and appeals to companies that are less bound by national borders than ever before," Liveris writes.

He also says that government needs to be involved more than ever as a thoughtful partner in these competitions.

HEARTBREAKING STORY

The story behind the Kindle is painful.

It starts with Amazon's big idea - an electronic reader that will act just like a book.

But no LCD panels were being made in the United States, so Amazon had to turn to a Taiwanese company. That's bad enough, but there's more

Now, the real innovation in the Kindle is the electronic ink produced by a company in Massachusetts, spun off by a lab at MIT. …

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