NAM Vice President of Infrastructure, Innovation and Human Resources Policy Robyn Boerstling outlined manufacturers’ worries about rising costs, supply chain snarls and labor disputes during a roundtable convened by Republicans of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee last Thursday. Here is some of what she said:
The positives first: Boerstling praised manufacturing workers who “moved and made things” during the pandemic, recognizing their extraordinary contribution to the country’s well-being. She went on to affirm that manufacturers are still mostly positive about the economy, saying:
- “Strengthening our competitiveness is a leading goal of every manufacturer, and 83% of manufacturers have a positive outlook according to our latest survey data.”
Moving on to the concerns, Boerstling cited four key factors:
- Increased raw materials costs
- Supply chain
We particularly appreciate her analogy for the troubles that manufacturers face:
- “I think it is best to use the game Jenga beloved by adults and kids to illustrate the point that we can build the tall, standing structure, but when pieces are removed, the structure becomes less stable over time.”
The policy fixes: In answering the representatives’ questions, Boerstling stressed a few key areas where policymakers can act to help manufacturers.
- Trucking: Boerstling mentioned that the shortage of labor in the trucking industry is weighing on manufacturers. She cited the Drive Safe Act as one mechanism for alleviating the shortage.
- Ports: The uncertainty regarding West Coast ports continues to be a huge burden on manufacturing as well. Boerstling cited an NAM study that found that a single day of closures at these ports would cost a half a billion dollars, emphasizing the need for a swift resolution to the current contract negotiations between the unions and the port authorities. “Manufacturers really need certainty,” she said.
- Rail: Manufacturers also need an intervention to help with Class 1 railway negotiations. Boerstling advocated for a presidential emergency board (which President Biden later announced on Friday), made up of advisers who can help move the process along and avoid instability in this key industry.
- Regulations: Last, she also told the representatives that the NAM is examining 77 regulatory items that may hamper trucking, infrastructure or other key components of manufacturing competitiveness. The regulatory agenda “is where the action is happening in this administration”—and the NAM is paying close attention to it.