Remarks by NAM President & CEO Jay Timmons
Good morning. Thank you to Chandler-Gilbert Community College, Dr. Peterson and Dr. Berquam for welcoming us to Arizona. Thanks also to our partners at the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and their Manufacturers Council.
It’s also good to see Dawn Grove of Karsten Manufacturing, Guys Moos of Baker Boy and Mark Gaspers of Boeing. Mark is Chair of the Arizona Manufacturers Council. Mark, on behalf of America’s manufacturers, thanks to Boeing for this morning’s announcement that the company is committing $2 million to support displaced Ukrainians.
To the students here today, thank you for the privilege of your time. I’m going to be addressing many issues and current events today. And you might be thinking, “Let’s just get on with it. I just want to get a job!”
I well understand that eagerness. But I can assure you that much of what I discuss today will confront you sooner than you think. And we will all be counting on you to lead us forward.
This is the perfect place for our 2022 NAM State of Manufacturing Address because the future of advanced manufacturing here is as bright as the desert sun.
For each of the past nine months, manufacturers in America have had more than 800,000 open jobs in our industry. 800,000 chances to launch a well-paying career. In Arizona, there were more than 11,000 openings in just the first 45 days of 2022.
There’s hardly ever been more opportunities for future manufacturing workers. Innovators. Designers. Technicians. Creators. We’re a $2.57 trillion industry, with more than 12.5 million workers and counting. And the vast majority of manufacturing leaders say they are optimistic about the future.
That’s why I am so confident and so pleased to report that the State of Manufacturing in America is “resilient.”
Forces are aligning to make this a manufacturing decade—but to see it come to fruition, we must make the right choices today.
So, let’s talk about some of those choices we need to make.
First, we must inspire the workforce of today and tomorrow. From Arizona to Arkansas, from California to Connecticut, from Nevada to New York—manufacturers are saying more than “help wanted.” We’re saying, “Creators Wanted.”
That’s the message of this first-of-its-kind mobile experience behind me.
The NAM and The Manufacturing Institute have been traveling the country with our “Creators Wanted” campaign, introducing thousands of young people and those who are seeking a new opportunity to a high-tech, hands-on career they may have never considered: a career in modern manufacturing.
And as part of the “Creators Wanted” campaign, we’re not just inspiring them. We’re going to help educate and empower them, with an online tool called “Creators Connect” that shows them where the real jobs are now—and the education and training they can access to get a job in the future.
Here’s the thing about manufacturing: once you see it in action, you can’t help but want to be a part of it.
Students at Chandler-Gilbert and Mesa Community College already know this. You’re honing your skills so that you can go to work in advanced manufacturing—maybe even at a place like Intel here in Arizona. Or maybe into the booming biotechnology and pharmaceutical sectors that are not just creating jobs here in the Grand Canyon State but also saving lives around the world.
And of course, sporting goods, food and beverage and aerospace and defense manufacturers—just like the leaders who are here today.
We also need parents, teachers, mentors and elected officials to be our champions.
If there are young people in your life you care about, tell them about careers that are exciting, high paying, hiring right now and making a difference in people’s lives.
Today’s modern manufacturing leaders are building more inclusive workplaces, welcoming people from all backgrounds—and finding new ways to support our employees once they are hired. In addition to generous pay, health care, retirement and other benefits, many are going the extra mile to help out working parents.
Wisconsin Aluminum Foundry, for example, has started reimbursing employees for child care—on top of its other benefits. Vermeer Corporation in Pella, Iowa, has full onsite child care.
And to help workers advance in their careers, companies are investing in upskilling programs—so that people can keep improving their skills as technology advances throughout their careers. They are future-proofing their jobs.
Every day, manufacturers are rolling out all kinds of new advanced technologies to sharpen our competitive edge—the kind of tech that’s part of the experience behind me.
Robotics. 3D printing. Artificial intelligence. Smart factories. Virtual reality. Biotechnology.
That means we need people. Automation doesn’t replace workers. It empowers them to do more creative things.
And by the way, the metaverse isn’t just a playground for Mark Zuckerberg. It’s also a place where manufacturing innovation will be possible.
So again, there has never been a better time to launch a manufacturing career. But if for some reason you still need convincing, go to creatorswanted.org.
Second, we must choose to do everything in our power to keep our workforce and workplaces safe. Manufacturers have championed the COVID-19 vaccines from the very beginning. Heck, we made the vaccines. So, our message to Americans is simple. Get vaxxed. Get boosted. Mask up when the situation demands. And we can save lives and get on with our lives.
Third, we must enact good policies.
Did you see President Biden’s State of the Union Address Tuesday? Manufacturing was a central theme—and over and over again, our industry won applause from both sides of the aisle. I don’t think there’s any other industry that has such strong bipartisan appeal—but we need to match that applause with the right policies.
Kudos to leaders in Arizona who have made this a great place to do business. And a big thank you from the entire industry to both of Arizona’s sitting senators—Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly—for supporting the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
That’s the biggest deal for our infrastructure since the Eisenhower Presidency. Manufacturers have pushed multiple congresses and successive presidents to get something like that done. But thanks to your senators, working with Democrats and Republicans, and President Biden, we finally got it done. It will make our lives better—and make it easier for manufacturers in America to compete with China.
And if Congress can get infrastructure investment done, really, they can pass immigration reform.
I don’t have to tell Arizonans what needs to happen. Secure the border. Give protection to Dreamers and to those for whom America is their only home.
Provide an appropriate and balanced path to legalization. And bring in talent that meets our economic needs.
We’ve always been a nation of immigrants, but we need immigration now even more. If we don’t welcome more immigrants legally, two things will happen. First, that talent will go help other countries outcompete us, taking away sales from American companies, and…
Second, our population could shrink. With the current birthrates, American population growth is slowing and could start declining. It’s virtually impossible to have an aging, shrinking population and grow the economy in a way that improves people’s lives. Immigration is the solution.
But even that’s not enough. There are more things Congress needs to tackle: like reinstating the tax incentives that allow us to lead on research and development.
And we have to resolve the supply chain issues. President Biden recently announced plans to hold ocean carriers accountable for soaring shipping costs. That’s a great step in the right direction to bring down the prices manufacturers pay to move our essential goods and products.
But if we’re really going to outcompete China and other countries, then we need Congress to finish up the “global competitiveness bill” they’re working on and get it to the president.
There’s a lot on the table that we want in the final version: Anti-counterfeiting measures. STEM workforce development. Essential trade provisions. Supply chain resiliency. And the CHIPS Act, which will create a surge in domestic semiconductor manufacturing.
That one’s big. Because everything we use today—cars, home appliances, phones, medical devices, computers, you name it—they all have a chip in it. If we make more of those chips, you will get fewer of those dreaded emails saying, “shipment delayed.” And if we expand capacity by making those chips in America, we’ll have even more high-tech job opportunities in places like Arizona.
So, Congress, if you care about manufacturing, get this bill done—but get it done right.
When the final bill is voted on, leave out the trade restrictions and labor laws that are anti-worker.
You know, there’s nothing wrong with deciding to join a union. But it should be your private decision. We don’t need the federal government ending the secret ballot in union elections. Too many times, there have been attempts by Congress and this administration to use the government’s powers to grow union membership. They have not been successful so far, but enough is enough.
So now, the fourth choice that will determine our future: we must not give into the temptation to roll back policies that are actually working.
Number one on that list is the tax reform that President Trump signed into law in 2017. For more than a year, some politicians have tried to raise taxes on manufacturers. They tried it with the COVID-19 relief bill. They tried it with infrastructure. They tried it with “Build Back Better.” And three times, manufacturers said don’t do it. And we won. The voices of moderation in the Senate prevailed.
And that is why, since tax reform, we’ve kept our promises to raise wages, hire more workers and invest in our communities. Pivot Manufacturing in Phoenix is a great example. CEO Steve Macias says that the business was stagnating in 2017, but after tax reform, everything changed. The company was able to invest in advanced manufacturing equipment, which meant they could recruit a math- and tech-focused workforce, establish a new apprenticeship and mentorship model and set themselves on a strong growth trajectory.
Tax reform has been rocket fuel for our economy and it is the foundation on which we’ll build this manufacturing decade. But if Congress repeals it or hits us with some other taxes they’ve concocted, like the so-called “book tax,” well, they’ll pull the rug out from under our recovery. And Arizona families, American families, will feel the pain.
Smart energy policy is also just as important as smart tax policy. Policies that provide the reliable energy on which manufacturers count, while still leading the way on sustainability and climate. And that’s especially true today with the global turbulence created by Russia.
All of this and more is on our policy roadmap, called “Competing to Win.” You can find it at nam.org/competingtowin.
Congress followed our roadmap with the infrastructure bill, and look—historic achievement.
So if Congress follows “Competing to Win” on other issues, the American people will win, and elected officials will win the support of manufacturing voters.
And it’s voting—democracy—that brings me to the final choice facing our industry and our country.
We must choose to safeguard the values and institutions that make manufacturing in America possible in the first place.
Manufacturers believe in—and the NAM works to advance—four core values that have made America exceptional and that keep our industry strong: Free enterprise, competitiveness, individual liberty and equal opportunity.
Underpinning those values, the foundation of it all, is our constitutional republic, our democratic system.
But there are a lot of people in the United States who are losing faith in that system. One recent poll found that 64% of Americans say that U.S. democracy is “in crisis and at risk of failing.”
There are a lot of politicians and media figures who have tried to undermine elections. Instead of using their platforms to bring us together and strengthen democracy here and around the world, they use disinformation and vitriol to divide us.
It’s troubling. And it threatens our very way of life.
Eight decades ago, manufacturers in America were the arsenal of democracy. We mobilized and built the supplies to defeat foreign forces trying to destroy freedom, our republic and others like it in a world war. Today, America faces new threats to our democracy, including those threats from within. And once again, manufacturers stand proudly on the side of protecting and preserving American democracy and our constitutional republic.
Business is one of the most trusted institutions in the world, according to recent research. So, businesses can uniquely use our platforms for good. And what more noble cause is there than defending the democratic system that makes our liberty—and our industry’s success—possible?
When you see and hear what some people are saying, it can be easy to lose faith. Violence is never the answer, and yet some are calling it “legitimate discourse.”
Yes, it’s ugly. But I still have faith in this American experiment because there is far more good in the hearts of our fellow Americans, and if we unleash that—then we can safeguard freedom for the next generation.
I’ll close by quoting a great Arizonan and an American hero, the late Sen. John McCain, who knew more about defending freedom than many of us ever will.
“My friends,” he said, “If you find faults with our country, make it a better one. If you’re disappointed with the mistakes of government, join its ranks, and work to correct them.
“Enlist in our Armed Forces. Become a teacher. Enter the ministry. Run for public office. Feed a hungry child. Teach an illiterate adult to read. Comfort the afflicted. Defend the rights of the oppressed.
“Our country will be the better, and you will be the happier, because nothing brings greater happiness in life than to serve a cause greater than yourself.”
I’ve always believed, and the past two years have reinforced, that manufacturers are in the business of causes greater than self. From building the arsenal to win a world war decades ago, to pioneering the treatments to defeat today’s diseases and pandemics, we change the world.
And that remains our purpose today.
Manufacturers are lining up to hire—hire young people ready to begin their careers, or to hire experienced people ready for a change.
So, to any of those people listening, we’re ready for you. Your mission awaits. And in this job, in this career, you might just find a cause greater than yourself—a higher purpose more rewarding than any you have known.
And, to again quote Sen. McCain, “nothing brings greater happiness in life.”
Thank you so much.