Legislation that seeks to bolster manufacturing in the United States is now awaiting consideration in Congress.
The Revitalize American Manufacturing and Innovation Act of 2013 (H.R. 2996/S.1468) was reported to Congress by committee at the end of last month. The bill was introduced in the Senate August 1 of last year and in the House or Representatives the following day by democrat Sherrod Brown of Ohio and republican Tom Reed of New York, respectively.
The legislation, which can be explored in full here, looks to join industry, universities and community colleges, federal agencies and other levels of government in accelerating manufacturing innovation. Sponsors of the bills say it will bridge the gap between basic research and product development by establishing public-private institutes.
“This is about providing the manufacturing infrastructure in this country to retain our competitive edge,” Brown, who recently visited Ohio-based manufacturers Lauren Manufacturing and Quanex, said in a statement. “Our bipartisan bill would also ensure that American workers, universities, and large and small manufacturers can out-compete and out-innovate the rest of the world.”
The act amends the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Act to establish within NIST a Network for Manufacturing Innovation Program. The purpose of the program, according to the bill, is to improve the competitiveness of U.S. manufacturing and increase domestic production; stimulate U.S. leadership in advanced manufacturing research, innovation, and technology; and accelerate the development of an advanced manufacturing workforce.
According to the “findings” in compiling the bill, “if ranked as its own country, the United States manufacturing sector would be the 10th largest economy in the world,” despite the fact that American manufacturers employ more than 11 billion Americans in jobs with wages and benefits that are one-third higher than the wages and benefits in other sectors.
It also notes that countries such as Korea, Japan, and Germany have a larger share of the advanced manufacturing sector than the U.S.
“The United States’ share of research and development spending dropped from 43.1 percent in 1998 to 37.3 percent in 2008, while China’s share of research and development spending increased from 3 percent to 11.4 percent during the same period,” it reads. Additionally, according to the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development, the U.S. ranked 27th out of 29 developed countries in the percentage of students who earned bachelor’s degrees in science and engineering in 2009.
According to the bill, manufacturing has the highest multiplier effect of all sectors, with every dollar in final sales of manufactured products resulting in $1.34 in output from other sectors.
“We know that manufacturing has strong ripple effects on the rest of our economy and helped build America’s middle class,” said Brown. “ … The Revitalize American Manufacturing and Innovation Act of 2013 would ensure that we don’t cede our American leadership to countries that are racing to get ahead.”
Added Reed, “As demand grows for highly-skilled workers, it’s increasingly important we bridge the workforce development gap to fill in-demand positions. … Creating a network of regional institutions across the country will support the kind of education needed for high-paying, high-tech manufacturing jobs. With this infrastructure in place, we can grow domestic manufacturing and put Americans back to work.”
According to Congress.gov, the House version of the bill has 98 co-sponsors—50 democrats and 48 republicans—and picked up 15 co-sponsors in the last week of this July alone. The Senate has 15 co-sponsors.
“Manufacturing is the backbone of the U.S. economy,” says American Architectural Manufacturers Association president and CEO Rich Walker. “Keeping domestic manufacturing strong is important for maintaining and growing jobs and stimulating our economy.
“AAMA supports various efforts to ensure the ongoing success of American manufacturing; however, we can’t rely solely on the government. Keeping workers properly trained and [research and development] top of mind helps to make both large and small manufacturers profitable.”