Watch the 2023 NAM State of Manufacturing Address from Husco International in Waukesha, Wisconsin, where Jay Timmons, President and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers, delivered the address. Special remarks were given by Kurt Bauer, President and CEO of Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce. We extend our gratitude to Husco President and CEO Austin Ramirez and his team for hosting this year’s address.
Manufacturing leaders, lawmakers and media joined the National Association of Manufacturers as NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons set the stage for the industry’s advocacy in 2023. What is the state of the industry? How do manufacturers lead in an uncertain world? Where is the manufacturing economy headed?
We’re Hitting the Road:
This year’s NAM State of Manufacturing Address officially kicked off the 2023 leg of the NAM’s Competing to Win Tour. The tour will continue to spotlight the industry’s rapid transformation, while also focusing on manufacturing’s well-paying careers, diverse workforce and real-world solutions for the industry’s continued growth.
Thank you, Husco, for welcoming us here today. Austin, you’re an inspirational leader for Husco and a champion for the entire industry.
I’d also like to recognize Kurt Bauer of Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, the NAM’s official state partner, who’s with us. Thanks for welcoming us to Wisconsin and for your leadership.
And welcome to everyone who’s joining us virtually.
There is no better example of the drive, talent and strength of the manufacturing industry than the people in this room—and manufacturing team members like them across America.
You are part of a force for good that is 13 million people strong—and growing. You are the economic engine of this country—a country that is a beacon for freedom and democracy for the entire world.
When you strengthen this country with your work, you’re strengthening the values that will shape the future of humankind.
I’m reminded that one year ago this week the world witnessed Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine. Our country and our industry have come to the aid of the people of Ukraine in extraordinary ways.
That fight is more than a war between two countries. It’s a struggle between freedom and tyranny.
There are two systems evolving in this world. One, though not perfect, has enriched our lives and lifted people up into freedom and prosperity. That’s our system. And then, there’s the system that is oppressive and robs people of their very humanity.
America is a light, a beacon to the world. And as part of this industry, you help keep that light shining brightly.
So, despite everything happening around us, like the threat of a recession and global conflict, manufacturers are still leading the way forward.
And although our industry and our country will need to make audacious and sometimes uncomfortable changes to adapt to economic, political and global challenges,…I’m confident in reporting that the state of manufacturing in America remains steadfast and resolute.
If you want to know what that looks like, just look around. Some of you weren’t born in the U.S. You chose to be here because of opportunity. Husco welcomed you because they know skilled, dedicated workers have many diverse backgrounds and experiences—and that you make our country stronger.
I understand that five years ago, a strong contingent of Burmese team members joined Husco after fleeing violence in their country and are now an integral part of the company’s success.
More recently, Austin told me that after months of trying to hire second shift positions, with limited results, Husco leapt at the chance to recruit refugees from Afghanistan.
And I heard about how Hamza and Baitullah have worked as interpreters, helping you to bring even more Afghan refugees onto the team.
For so many manufacturers in America right now, there are more open jobs than there are people to fill them. One of the many ways we fill those jobs and keep our economy moving is welcoming immigrants into our workforce. Just like you have…just like we have in the past to build a stronger, more prosperous America.
So, why would we want to reduce legal immigration and let our population shrink, let our economy shrink?
Manufacturers all over the country have taken a leadership role in their communities—to be part of the solution.
Some have even provided resources such as legal support to navigate the road to citizenship, financial services and classes to learn English.
Manufacturers have put out a big welcome mat.
Unfortunately, not everyone has these resources or an extensive support network. And our government isn’t making this an easy process.
We have a huge backlog of people waiting for visas or work authorization from the U.S.
Let’s change that. Anyone who has fled a brutal war and is seeking safety from Afghanistan, Ukraine or the next conflict, should not have to wait to work if they are here legally.
And for those who come here to seek asylum and have a legitimate claim, their average wait is four years. It’s only expected to grow. So, let’s significantly shorten the process and make it more orderly and aligned with our values.
Nearly 800,000 manufacturing jobs are open right now, so we cannot wait.
Bottom line? We know that between this and the crisis at the border, our immigration system is broken. But we can fix it, and manufacturers have a plan. It’s called “A Way Forward,” because that’s what it provides.
And if Congress does act, guess what? We can address the border crisis. We can fill more jobs. We can strengthen the economy. And we can raise the quality of life for all Americans. Our country will be stronger if we provide legal avenues that give people a chance to start new lives in America.
But like I said, immigration isn’t the only way we solve the workforce crisis. It also requires companies to offer the best possible benefits and to show that our industry is purpose-driven, and that we care for everyone’s well-being.
We see that here through a program called Husco Scholars. Husco works with both two- and four-year college systems to recruit talented high school students to work at Husco full time while they pursue technical or engineering degrees. These students ultimately graduate with money in the bank and years of industry experience to take with them.
We also see that in companies like Vermeer, which makes tractors and heavy equipment over in Pella, Iowa. Vermeer built a child care facility that serves the whole community, as well as an onsite health care clinic and pharmacy to keep its teams healthy.
Manufacturers are dedicated to doing the right things for their employees. But it sure is harder for them to do that when Congress lets taxes go up on businesses, especially small companies.
That’s exactly what Congress did at the end of 2022. Companies used to get bigger deductions for things like research and development, or for buying new machines that make jobs safer and easier and the air cleaner.
As someone at Vermeer told the NAM, “it’s millions in additional tax.” That means less new machinery, less research. Meanwhile, China gives manufacturing companies there a 200% deduction for R&D, which is 20 times as much as what we give in America.
Here’s the challenge to the Biden administration and Democrats and Republicans in Congress: let’s turn the tables and make it easier for America to out-innovate China.
You know, after tax reform in 2017, manufacturers were able to keep their promises and invest in their teams and communities across the board.
Miles Fiberglass in Clackamas, Oregon, for example, gave its teams a 9% wage increase after tax reform, similar to what many other companies did.
Why would we want to go backward?
The NAM is determined to get Congress to restore incentives for R&D and get our business tax rates and structure back on track to enable us to compete globally.
And then, let’s lock in competitive rates for small businesses like Husco, so that you can plan confidently for the future—instead of facing a staggering tax increase in 2026. We have an obligation to do better than that.
Now, back to China. We do have to get more serious about out-competing them, and when we do, we can secure more jobs here in America.
Think about Nite Ize, a small manufacturer that makes utility gear in Boulder, Colorado. Nite Ize has to be on guard against counterfeits constantly. In one year alone, they had to take down more than 75,000 counterfeit listings and websites.
Counterfeiting is a problem of epidemic proportions. The NAM’s research shows that in 2019 alone, counterfeits cost businesses across the U.S. $131 billion and 325,000 American jobs. And 87% of counterfeit products seized at our borders in 2019 came from China.
You know, there’s been a lot of attention lately on China and national security threats. But it’s important to remember that our economic security and national security are intrinsically linked.
So, if we’re going to counter China, then we must hold China accountable for the trade commitments it has already made to the U.S. And we have to forge ambitious, cutting-edge trade agreements with our allies.
Other countries aren’t waiting around. So, let’s think big. And let’s be bold.
Another way we win in this global competition is to speed up the construction of new projects here in America.
One key priority for manufacturers this year is pushing Congress to pass a bill that reforms the permitting process. Permitting reform means making it easier to get permission to build that new road or power plant, or for manufacturers to build new facilities.
Why, in the 21st century, should it take 5 or 10 years just to approve construction of highways that move your products…or to build the power plants that will supply more sustainable electricity to your factories and homes?
If Washington could just cut through the bureaucracy and streamline processes, like you do in your businesses every single day, we could do more for this country.
Look, we can still set high standards for ourselves. Let’s just modernize that process—fewer delays, fewer needless lawsuits. It’s not about cutting corners. It’s about keeping up with the world around us.
And while we’re at it, we’re going to tell the EPA that manufacturers are already leading to clean our air. The government shouldn’t enact rules that, however well-intentioned, would make it more difficult to achieve our environmental goals, slow our economic growth and push us closer toward recession.
In fact, the NAM is launching a nationwide campaign to tell regulators to protect manufacturers and not change these standards before fully implementing some already on the books.
Because our industry will always stick to its mission: making products that make life better for all Americans,… and for the entire world.
And that, that my friends, is our story. The story of manufacturing in America is one of resilience. Defying the odds. All manufacturers ask is that in Washington, when it comes to policy, don’t stack those odds against us.
That’s our message to Congress and to federal agencies.
You know, we’re here in Husco’s Hub—your break room.
I imagine that most of the time when the Husco team is here, you’re probably talking more about how great the Badgers are looking this year—but not as good as the Buckeyes—rather than talking about things like…tax policy or permitting reform or the rules of international trade. Because if you do, that’s one boring lunch.
But our job at the NAM is to help lawmakers see that the decisions they make on those issues matter to teams like yours. It’s about how it directly affects what goes on here and in communities all across this great country.
We can see what happens when Washington comes together to make all of us stronger. In just the past two years, achievements like the infrastructure law and the CHIPS and Science Act are already making life better for families and helping us create new manufacturing jobs. We need more of that.
And for anyone out there watching this virtually, we have the resources to help you find those pathways to these great careers. Just visit CreatorsWanted.org. That’s the NAM and the Manufacturing Institute’s largest national campaign to grow the manufacturing workforce of today and tomorrow.
I said earlier that manufacturing is a force for good in the world. And it’s not only what you make. It’s your example.
Whether you are new to this country—or if you have been part of this community’s success for decades, you inspire others with your hard work and your dedication to the values that have made this country exceptional: free enterprise, competitiveness, individual liberty and equal opportunity.
History shows us that as long as manufacturers lead the way, America and our democracy will remain that beacon of freedom and hope for people around the world.
Manufacturers have been, and always will be, in word and deed, the arsenal of democracy.
And working together, I know we will keep making this a manufacturing decade.
I’m confident we can move, steadfast and resolute, into a future of even greater promise and possibility. And because of that, you can take pride every day that you walk onto that shop floor.
Thank you,…thank you so much for your inspiration and leadership.