What many fail to understand, she said, is that today’s U.S. manufacturers are by and large not producing clothes, trinkets and mass market items. “We’re producing value-added products,” she said. “The cars we drive, the airplanes we drive. That’s what’s driving this country.”
Alan Spell, the research manager for the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center, joined McNelly in dispelling the notion that U.S. manufacturing has lost its manufacturing edge to China.
“We’re not competing for low-skilled products anymore,” Spell said in an interview following his presentation to a new manufacturing symposium.
“That ship has sailed. We’re competing for customized products that need to get to the market fast.”
And maintaining American dominance in the production of big-ticket items remains a high priority. Another Manufacturing Institute survey measured the disconnect between the stated allegiance to U.S. production and actual commitment to the cause.
The poll revealed that 86 percent of Americans believe U.S. manufacturing is “very important to their standard of living,” while 79 percent said a strong manufacturing base should be a national priority.
Asked what type of 1,000-job business would be best located in their community, the respondents put manufacturing at the top of the list.
Yet only a third of the same respondents said they would encourage their own children to pursue jobs in manufacturing.
“Americans in general think we need to place a greater emphasis on manufacturing careers. It’s a priority. But when they look it as a career for their kids, it’s a different thing,” said Rod Nunn, vice chancellor for workforce and community development at St. Louis Community College.
“There’s a perception that (manufacturing) is dangerous and dirty, when the reality is new manufacturing has more dials and controls than most Nintendos and Game Boys,” McNelly emphasized.