4 Things Manufacturers Want From the Next President
Incumbent President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger, Former Vice President Joe Biden, have a lot to talk about when it comes to manufacturing. Both candidates have touted lofty plans to help manufacturing navigate the future, including specific approaches to addressing offshoring and trade relations. And while it’s refreshing to see manufacturing take such an important role on the campaign trail, what matters is whether either candidate can meet the expectations manufacturing has for them if elected.
Manufacturing is in a period of disruption, not only due to COVID-19 but because Industry 4.0 is driving major change. Factories are becoming data-first enterprises and industrial headwinds are causing producers to adapt and pivot. Industry needs leadership and support in the coming years. Here’s what manufacturers are demanding from the next president.
- Reshoring and domestic investments. Manufacturing has seen a decline in domestic production over the last 20 years, largely due to offshoring practices. Bringing manufacturing jobs back to U.S. soil is a prime directive in assuring a strong future for industry. Reshoring creates domestic footholds, improving everything from price leverage to supply chain control for American companies.
- Better trade agreements. Despite demands for reshoring, there are also cries for better trade relations. The economy is global. Even if goods are produced on U.S. soil, strong trade agreements will ensure they’re exported fairly and with regularity. Likewise, sound trading partners ensure domestic producers can get the materials they need at stable, predictable prices.
- COVID-19 leadership. The pandemic has decimated industries like hospitality and restaurants. Airlines are headed for another bailout. Manufacturing has been scathed, but remains open because it’s an essential sector. That said, industry needs leadership to tame the virus before outbreaks and hotspots threaten domestic production. The next president needs to offer swift and encompassing oversight, leading to actionable tamp-downs on the virus.
- STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) education investments. The growing skills gap is perhaps the largest single threat to the manufacturing industry’s future. Heavy investments in STEM education are a priority. Educating children and young adults now and improving STEM education could create a surge of new talent into the manufacturing workplace over the next few decades — enough to replace retiring seniors and fill new jobs as the industry continues to modernize. STEM education starts at the top and needs to be a federal priority.
Both Trump and Biden have been vocal about these concerns. Trump’s plan calls for bringing manufacturing jobs back to domestic soil via tax credits, while Biden’s plan puts more emphasis on penalizing manufacturers who offshore. Both candidates have pledged federal dollars to domestic manufacturing.
But will these efforts be enough? Manufacturing wants more assurances, hitched to the demands listed above. Reshoring shows emphasis on domestic production. Trade agreements help re-establish supply chains disrupted by COVID-19. Better leadership through the pandemic will trend the manufacturing industry back toward stability. Investments in STEM education will help produce the workforce of the future. The question is, can the next president deliver on these demands?