How to Strengthen Manufacturing

Reprint from the International Economic Development Council

Address its image problem: Nashville has overtaken Detroit as home to the largest automobile factory in the United States (BBC). But even in Nashville, where manufacturing is highly visible, many young workers express ambivalence toward working in the sector, citing the unattractive image of factory work. Continued growth in manufacturing will most certainly require countering this image problem.

Leverage strengths: Area Development recently profiled one manufacturing company’s site selection process to demonstrate how the United States is regaining competitiveness in manufacturing FDI. The company ultimately chose the Southeast U.S. for several key regional strengths: low energy costs, industry clusters, extensive infrastructure, strong supply chains, skilled workforce, low-tax environment, and targeted incentives.

Shorten supply chains: Ensuring a strong energy supply chain has received much attention in policy circles, but often overlooked is the supply of minerals and metals, essential inputs to advanced industries (Industry Week). Currently, U.S. industries import about 50 percent of their supply of metals and minerals. As more companies relocate to the United States, accessing more domestically supplied natural resources could greatly shorten the supply chain of minerals and metals. Groups such as the National Mining Association and the Reshoring Initiative have advocated for streamlining the mine permitting process to less than three years, on par with regulations in Australia and Canada.

Embrace big data: Advances in machine automation have aided the manufacturing renaissance. Will big data be the next key contributor (Smart Data Collective)? Big data can mean big efficiency, and it is finding tremendous applicability to manufacturers in a number of ways, such as better translating customer demand patterns, calculating efficiency down to the individual machine, and allowing for better customization of products.

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