The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) was founded in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1895. The United States was in the midst of a deep recession, and many of the nation’s manufacturers saw a strong need to export their products in other countries. One of the NAM’s earliest efforts was to call for the creation of the U.S. Department of Commerce. The NAM also helped launch the National Council of Commerce, which later became the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
In the 1930s, the NAM launched its first public relations campaign for the “dissemination of sound American doctrines to the public.” Over a 13-year period, the NAM spent more than $15 million to inform the public about the vital role manufacturing plays in the U.S. economy. These efforts included movie shorts, leaflets, radio speeches, films for schools and a daily NAM column that appeared in 260 newspapers nationwide.
During World War II, the NAM created a plant-level employee morale program, titled “Soldiers of Production.” The association also conducted community relations efforts and assisted companies with such wartime problems as priorities and allocations. Before the end of the war, the NAM concentrated on helping manufacturers prepare for the postwar period, helping them with issues such as recycling surplus materials, conversion to civilian production and training of veterans for careers in manufacturing.
The advent of commercial television led to the NAM’s own 15-minute television program, “Industry on Parade,” which first aired in 1950. By 1952, the Peabody Award–winning show was being telecast in 76 of the 78 U.S. television markets.
President John Kennedy’s speech to the NAM audience in December 1961 helped initiate the effort that led to the enactment of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, which resulted in lower tariffs. In 1964, the NAM led a successful trade mission to Europe. Members of the NAM delegation met with President Lyndon Johnson and Pope Paul VI during the mission.
Taking advantage of new technology in the early 1970s, the NAM held four closed-circuit television conferences reaching as many as 8,000 business executives in 26 cities at one time. The NAM also established its headquarters in Washington, D.C., in order to increase the association’s impact on policy development.
As the 1980s began, the NAM unveiled its six-point “Revitalization Agenda” to combat inflation and invigorate manufacturing and the economy. It became a major part of President Ronald Reagan’s economic program in 1981. In 1987, long before the Internet became common, the NAM provided its members with online, customized communications through NAMnet, including our first webpage.
In 1995, a series of 16 different vignettes on the importance of manufacturing aired on CNN television during the NAM’s centennial commemoration. During this period, the NAM founded The Manufacturing Institute after research showed legislators, the administration, the media, policy influencers and the public had an antiquated view about manufacturing’s vital leadership in innovation, job opportunity, technological progress and economic national security. The Institute conducts groundbreaking research and educational and innovative programs to combat misperceptions and stereotypes about manufacturing.
On January 15, 2011, Jay Timmons became president and CEO of the NAM. “Jay has a keen understanding of manufacturing, and he has relationships on both sides of the aisle in Washington. Jay has helped lead the NAM during good economic times and has remained unflappable during the most difficult economic times manufacturers have ever faced,” stated NAM Chairman Michael Campbell. Timmons followed John Engler, the former three-term governor of Michigan, and Jerry Jasinowski who led the NAM with distinction for six and 15 years, respectively.
Throughout its history, the NAM has been one of the nation’s most influential advocates for manufacturing. The NAM has proudly stood with manufacturers and their employees in times of war and peace and in periods of economic strength and uncertainty. The NAM will continue to be the most powerful and unwavering voice for policies that support manufacturers’ ability to grow the economy, create good-paying jobs and improve standards of living.