The American manufacturing industry has been in jeopardy for years. Companies that want to save money often export their manufacturing to Asia and Central/South America, a trend that has made domestic manufacturers suffer. Though overall, employment and prominence of the US manufacturing industry has suffered since 2002, there is a glimmer of hope: employment in the industry went up 1.5% from 2014 to 2015. Here are 7 reasons we need to keep that trend moving upward—and prioritize manufacturing companies in our society.
- The manufacturing industry drives economic growth
There’s little doubt that there is a strong correlation between manufacturing and economic growth. Research shows that for every dollar spent in the manufacturing industry, $1.81 is incorporated into the larger economy. Furthermore, employment in this sector indicates employment growth in other industries. Today’s manufacturing jobs are still largely well-paid, and increased middle class jobs spur economic growth as well.
- They help develop the tools and machines needed to repair and build crucial infrastructure
It’s a fact that our national infrastructure is in dire need of upgrades. Roads and bridges are often unsafe, with 20,904 bridges rated as scour critical—meaning it has unstable foundations and could fail. These dangerous conditions, combined with increased congestion on roadways, show that we need to invest in new tools and machines to keep roads, bridges, and other infrastructure well-maintained. Without a strong manufacturing industry, that process could take longer and be more expensive.
- Quality of life improves with a strong manufacturing presence
Because manufacturing jobs are associated with a strong middle class, a strong industry presence is key for maintaining and improving quality of life for all citizens. The wealth gap has been widening for decades in the United States, and has gotten so wide that the rating (from 0 to 1—0 being perfectly equal) is now .45, which is worse than Iran’s. The top percentage of citizens hold a large share of the wealth, compromising overall quality of life.
- Manufacturing is a key component of innovation
Innovation is key for countries to remain as global powers. Though innovation is largely considered thought work, the truth is that there is a strong relationship between the activity of innovation and the manufacturing industry. Physically, the innovators involved in R&D and the manufacturing facilities that help to refine the new products must be in close proximity to one another. It is impractical, if not impossible, to perfect a product when the manufacturer is on the other side of the world.
- Countries can’t easily export services
Though services can be and are exported, the backbone of global trade is goods. Even countries like the United States, which is known for post-industrial services, still do most of their business with other economies by trading goods. Providing services is all well and good—if it’s backed up by a strong manufacturing industry.
- The manufacturing industry will develop the tools and technologies for classrooms of the future
Education is key to our ability to fuel the economy, as students must be equipped to enter the workforce and become productive and innovative additions to the economy. Our classrooms look very different than they once did, and they will become even more advanced in the coming years. As of 2014, 98% of K-12 students had access to broadband internet, and more and more learning in the classroom depends on technology. Manufacturing will be responsible for developing the tools and technologies that will advance society and our education system, helping to build an even stronger economy and global presence.
- Manufacturing offers more employment opportunities
There are many reasons that people have been worried about factories and manufacturing facilities closing down in the United States. One of the most powerful arguments, however, is the fact that manufacturing is an enormous source of employment in any economy. Even though more aspects of manufacturing are becoming automated, there is still a need for skilled workers to oversee and facilitate the production at manufacturing facilities.
Outsourcing these jobs overseas can reduce the number of available jobs—particularly in rural areas. In 2005, Germany and Japan’s manufacturing industries accounted for over 20% of these countries’ economies, while the United States’ only made up 13.4%. This loss of employment and economic autonomy is why many companies are beginning to bring their manufacturing back and building up the industry domestically.