The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) sent a letter to Congress Thursday signed by dozens of manufacturing leaders across the country urging a bipartisan overhaul of the current immigration system and requesting Congress assure a safe future for Dreamers and participants in the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program.
On Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee completed a markup of legislation to address two immigration populations currently facing uncertainty. One bill would provide permanent relief from deportation for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals as well as a conditional permanent resident status and another for TPS recipients that includes a path forward to legally remain in the United States.
The full House is expected to vote on this legislation in June.
“Dreamers, including participants in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival program, and participants in the Temporary Protected Status program continue to face uncertainty under our broken immigration system,” the letter from the NAM reads. “Congress needs to send a strong signal that we welcome their talents, contributions of hard work, desire for education, and if serving, support their willingness to wear the uniform of the armed forces.”
Earlier this year, the NAM released “A Way Forward,” a plan for comprehensive immigration reform that bolsters border security while strengthening the economy and providing certainty for those immigrants who are anxious about their future.
“Manufacturers are in the business of building solutions, and ‘A Way Forward’ is manufacturers’ commitment to fix our immigration system once and for all—one we believe can bridge the partisan divide on long-lasting immigration issues, as well as time-sensitive challenges that continue to arise,” NAM Vice President of Infrastructure, Innovation and Human Resources Robyn Boerstling said. “Our plan proposes seven core areas of action for Congress and the administration to take that will bolster national security, show compassion to those seeking a better life and strengthen the American workforce.”
The solution to the challenges facing our immigration system won’t come easily, but the path toward it is clear: Congress must come together and pass a comprehensive, bipartisan immigration overhaul. ‘A Way Forward’ provides a roadmap for how to accomplish that goal.
“America is indeed a nation of immigrants, but America has also become a nation with a broken immigration system,” NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons said in a letter earlier this year. “Manufacturers believe our leaders not only have an obligation to fix this system but also a historic opportunity to do so at a moment when Americans’ attention is focused on the issue like almost none other.
A new report from The Manufacturing Institute – the workforce and education partner of the National Association of Manufacturers – and PricewaterhouseCoopers suggests that increased automation in manufacturing may come with significant opportunities for workers in the industry.
The report – “Navigating the Fourth Industrial Revolution to the Bottom Line” – examines the ways that systemic changes are impacting the manufacturing industry, from the expansion of robotics to an increased interest in developing connected products. While manufacturers recognize the potential value of advanced technologies – including robotics, the Industrial Internet of Things, cloud computing, advanced analytics, 3D printing, and virtual and augmented reality – the prospect of integrating these new innovations with existing processes has raised questions.
The new report suggests automation may have a significant positive impact for people interested in the manufacturing industry – an increased need for talent to manage in a more automated, flexible production environment and new jobs for workers who can engineer robotics and their operating systems, to name a few opportunities. Rather than taking jobs away from workers, the report’s survey finds that most manufacturers see automation as reinforcing the need for distinctly human abilities.
“This technological shift is moving manufacturers rapidly toward jobs that require irreplaceable human skills, such as creativity, critical thinking, design, innovation, engineering and finance,” said Chad Moutray, Director of The Manufacturing Institute’s Center for Manufacturing Research. “Machines need workers to program, operate and maintain them, and today automation often works alongside workers, especially in the performance of monotonous tasks, which helps free workers to shift their focus to more interesting ones.”
Some of that work will come from existing employees. In fact, the report suggests that most manufacturers are planning to upskill and reskill their current employees on using and managing new technologies. In addition, manufacturers see a need to expand their workforce to include new employees – in part, by identifying and recruiting talented science, technology, engineering, and mathematics students, and by providing outside training at community colleges and through technology vendors in order to prepare potential new workers for roles in modern manufacturing.
“According to the World Economic Forum, we could create 133 million jobs by 2022 if workers are given significant reskilling and the next generation of workers is trained properly,” said Moutray. “Technological change can be a plus for manufacturing workers if we undertake the right approach now.”
All told, about 70 percent of manufacturers say the biggest impact of robotics on the workforce over the next five years will be the increased need for talent to manage in a more automated environment, and for new workers fill important jobs. The Manufacturing Institute has become the leading industry voice in Washington calling for workforce and education policies that bridge the skills gap, and it has a number of programs aimed toward supporting the manufacturing workforce of today and growing the manufacturing workforce of tomorrow.
“Technology isn’t a threat – technology is an enabler,” said Moutray. “It’s actually helping us do our jobs, helping us get to where we need to go, and then enabling that next generation.”
Last week, across the country more than 500 organizations participated in the 7th annual Infrastructure Week to call for a national infrastructure investment. The timing couldn’t be better, as President Trump and congressional leaders meet for their second round of talks Wednesday at the White House.
At hundreds of events throughout the week business leaders made their case for the urgent need to update our nation’s infrastructure, beginning with a national kickoff hosted in Washington, D.C. that featured dozens of manufacturing leaders, including National Association of Manufacturers board members Barbara Humpton, Siemens CEO, and Jason Andringa, Vermeer president and CEO.
Humpton and Andringa both appeared on a panel discussing upgrading America’s infrastructure to meet 21st century demands.
“Digital has brought an entirely new world to a huge segment of our lives,” Humpton said during a panel live-streamedby the NAM. “My prediction is we’re at the front end of bringing that kind of digitalization to infrastructure.”
“Broadband infrastructure is incredibly important,” Andringa said. “As you think about all the transportation assets that will be increasingly connected and communicating with each other, that’s also a very serious aspect.”
Andringa also pointed to the NAM’s landmark infrastructure investment plan “Building To Win” as a blueprint for policymakers.
Later in the week, NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons headlined an event on Friday in Houston.
“The broad consensus around the urgent need to modernize our nation’s infrastructure is why this event is able to bring together uncommon allies: business and labor, think tanks and coalitions, leaders from the left, right and center,” Timmons said.
Timmons also penned an op-ed in Fox Business Wednesday morning with Sylvester Turner, the mayor of Houston, noting the “status quo is failing” and calling for a bipartisan infrastructure deal.
Manufacturers are hoping the same will be true for policymakers in Washington. Leaders on both sides of the aisle in Washington have begun discussing a potential infrastructure investment package and means of funding it. Wednesday’s much-anticipated meeting between President Trump and congressional leaders is expected to center around funding mechanisms for potential bipartisan infrastructure legislation.
“Manufacturers are calling on Congress to act. Everything from our roads and bridges, ports and waterways, broadband and 5G technologies and more need a robust investment,” said Catie Kawchak, Director, Infrastructure, Innovation and Human Resources Policy at the NAM. “Across the country the message from Infrastructure Week is simple: The infrastructure choices we make today will shape America’s future. Our blueprint “Building to Win” calls for a one trillion dollar investment, but we are more than happy to have that number doubled as President Trump and congressional leaders have suggested. We’re hopeful that this week’s talks continue in good faith and that they agree on an actionable solution.”
Ahead of Wednesday’s meeting, more details about the NAM’s blueprint “Building to Win” can be found here.
Laura Mahany doesn’t just serve as a plant manager at Air Liquide. She’s also mentoring women within the organization and recruiting top engineers to increase female presence in manufacturing.
“I usually talk about sitting at a desk all day,” she says. “In manufacturing, you almost never do that.”
When she speaks to other young women on college campuses, she stresses the collaborative environments that manufacturing offers and the opportunities to interact with operators and technicians thatmake her work more interesting and engaging. From these conversations, she’s learned sustainability is an important issue for young people, who have become more vocal about being part of a grand environmental solution. And she has found that one of the biggest challenges for recruiting new manufacturers is simply a lack of visibility.
“When you talk to a child, they always know what a doctor does or a teacher does because they interact with those people,” Laura says. “But it’s not very often that they get to interact with engineers or visit a manufacturing plant.”
While in college, Laura provided some of those interactions herself as a mentor to underprivileged kids learning math and science. Each session involved experiments centered around different subjects and activities, from building roller coasters to making ice cream to using liquid nitrogen. By changing different elements of the experiments and studying how changes affect outcomes, Laura helped drive home scientific concepts – and gave kids a real-life example of what manufacturers do.
“Manufacturing is just a big word to them,” she says. “We need to make it real.”
Laura has learned firsthand how real manufacturing challenges can be. In 2017, she was tasked with preserving operations at her plant in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, and although she and her team evacuated during the hurricane itself, they returned to a scene that she calls “something out of a zombie apocalypse.” Because her plant was critical to the safety of the community – it produced nitrogen, which other industries use to prevent the release of dangerous chemicals – she had to restore operations quickly, even before the local government had given the all-clear for residents to return.
“We had to collaborate with other industries to get what we needed, like cooling water and electricity,” she says. “Luckily, I had good relationships with people at other companies – it really made such cooperation possible.”
Laura credits college internships with convincing her that she was destined for a career in manufacturing. Although she had always had an aptitude for math and science – as a child, she took part in academic competitions to improve her skills – a college program for women in engineering made the larger engineering program feel more approachable and drew her into more applied opportunities.
“I realized I liked the more hands-on work of manufacturing – the direct interaction with the meat of a business,” Laura says. “I liked how every day was different, fast paced, challenging.”
With a recent three-year United Nations environmental report spearheaded by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) highlighting dire warnings about human impact on the planet, leaders in the United States are under renewed pressure to find solutions that work. In communities across the country, manufacturers are taking a stand for sustainability – and demanding action against climate change.
While manufacturers have created their own policies to reduce pollution and increase sustainability, manufacturing leaders are increasingly pushing for action. Although policymakers in Washington have yet to settle on a unified approach, the manufacturing industry is making clear that the existing state of affairs is unsustainable.
“Manufacturers hope we can all agree that the current policy – a disjointed system of federal and state regulations that take decades to install and often fail – is not the answer,” said Ross Eisenberg, Vice President of Energy and Resources Policy at the National Association of Manufacturers. “A piecemeal regulatory approach just isn’t going to cut it.”
While proposals like the Green New Deal have garnered significant press coverage without gaining a single vote in Congress, manufacturing leaders are seeking opportunities for consensus on climate legislation by focusing on actionable solutions. These proposals include scaling up the adoption of energy- and water-efficient products and technologies, prioritizing innovation and creating pathways for the deployment of new technologies like carbon capture, utilization and storage. It also involves working collaboratively by creating public-private partnerships between government and manufacturers to help them further decarbonize. Finally, manufacturers are encouraging the United States to reengage with the international community in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions together, rather than in isolation.
Manufacturers have unique qualifications to speak about this issue, as most have implemented meaningful programs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, pioneer new strategies and technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and set aggressive emissions reduction targets.
These actions have had a significant effect. Over the past decade, the manufacturing industry has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 10 percent while the sector’s value to the economy has increased 19 percent. It’s outpacing competitors and demonstrating that it is possible to reduce emissions without falling behind in a global market.
“Our barometer is that manufacturers in America must stay competitive in the global economy, and that requires realistic, practical policies that we can implement while we continue to do the things that make the manufacturing sector strong,” said Eisenberg. “Speaking for the 12.8 million men and women who make things in America, we’re ready.”
Miles Fiberglass, a small family-owned Oregon manufacturing company, announced it has been able to increase its business by thirty five percent due to tax reform, resulting in a surge of new hires and investment.
Due to a new provision in the tax law allowing for immediate write-off of new equipment, Miles Fiberglass purchased a new semi-truck and a second mixer to set up room for demand from a new customer, saving money on the new assets in the process.
“This will be a major part of our business,” Miles Fiberglass president Lori Miles-Olund said. “Tax reform helped us secure that customer.”
The company’s business growth prompted leadership to hire roughly a dozen new employees. The company also purchased a new infusion gun, which dramatically reduces emissions in the manufacturing process and enables further growth while creating a cleaner work environment for employees.
“They see the growth thanks to tax reform,” Miles-Olund said. “They see the addition of customers. It puts them at ease that business is good.”
Last year, Miles Fiberglass raised its starting wage by 9 percent thanks to the tax law, bumping everyone up the chart. Growth has continued this year, and the company is already setting up plans to increase production for yet another customer.
“It’s going to be easier for us to get financing for future capital and purchase more equipment,” Miles-Olund said.
“It’s clear that, more than a year after its passage, tax reform continues to provide a boost to the U.S. economy and the U.S. manufacturing industry,” National Association of Manufacturers’ Vice President of Tax and Domestic Economy Policy Chris Netram said. “Rolling back the law would only hurt manufacturers like Miles Fiberglass, and we’re seeing that concern reflected in our latest survey.”
Last year, leaders of Canada, Mexico, and the United States came together to modernize the 25-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement. The result was the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA – a broad update that was agreed to in November 2018. Yet more than six months later the USMCA is still pending approval in Congress. Comprehensive new state-level data from the National Association of Manufacturers shows the USMCA’s positive impact, and manufacturers are voicing their support for this deal.
“The USMCA is about restoring certainty, improving the rule of law and expanding our partnerships with our most significant trade partners,” Linda Dempsey, NAM vice president of international economic affairs, said. “Not only will its ratification grant manufacturers the certainty they need to continue growing and creating jobs into the future, but it will also expand U.S. manufacturing access to Canada and Mexico and help level the playing field for American workers.”
As manufacturers’ most critical partners, Canada and Mexico purchase one-fifth of the total value of U.S. manufacturing output – more than the next 11 countries combined. These exports support about 2 million American manufacturing jobs and 43,000 small- and medium-sized businesses.
“Passage of this agreement is critical for U.S. manufacturing sector,” said Dempsey. “Canada and Mexico are manufacturers’ most important partners.”
The agreement promises stronger intellectual property rules to protect manufacturing inventions, setting new and improved standards for the digital economy. It expands U.S. manufacturing’s ability to export products abroad, ensuring manufacturers can sell their products duty free and eliminating red tape at the border that often hinders small- and medium-sized businesses seeking to sell their products in both Canada and Mexico. The USMCA also levels the playing field for U.S. manufacturers in critical ways by raising standards, improving transparency and prohibiting anti-U.S. discrimination from foreign governments. The benefits would extend to every state, offering communities across the country opportunities for growth.
With a push for action among policymakers and the public, manufacturers are asking Congress to ratify this agreement that improves trade relationships, strengthens the manufacturing sector and benefits the 12 million employees who work in the manufacturing industry.
“Without movement,” Dempsey said, “American manufacturing workers and communities are at risk.”
Manufacturing businesses have long been proponents of equality in the workplace. As legislation to codify protections for LGBT individuals passes through the House of Representatives, the National Association of Manufacturers joined the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Business Roundtable, and other members of the business community in advocating its passage, forging coalitions and providing congressional testimony.
Introduced with bipartisan support in the U.S. House and Senate in March, the Equality Act includes federal protections for individuals based on sexual orientation and gender identity under the existing framework of the Civil Rights Act, which already provides protection against discrimination on the basis of religion, national origin, race, color or sex. The goal of the legislation is to ensure that no person can face legal discrimination based on their gender or sexual orientation, setting a clear federal standard to enable individuals to succeed based on their abilities and qualifications to perform a job.
“Employers understand the importance of creating an environment in which the very best people can succeed based on merit,” Patrick Hedren, NAM vice president, labor, legal and regulatory policy, said. “At the same time, manufacturers know that discrimination in any form is antithetical to the values that we work to uphold every day: equality of opportunity, individual liberty, free enterprise and competitiveness.”
In March, more than 40 other industry associations rallied to support the Equality Act, providing an important boost for the groundbreaking legislation. In the weeks since, manufacturing representatives have testified before the House Education and Labor Committee and signed a coalition letter to the House Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Human Services calling for the Act’s passage. As Congress considers the way forward, manufacturers have made clear that they intend to advocate forcefully on behalf of the legislation and uphold their commitment to workers of every gender identity and sexual orientation.
“The Equality Act creates a clear federal standard that matches the sentiments manufacturers already share: gender identity and sexual orientation have no impact on an employee’s abilities and discrimination is not welcome on the manufacturing floor,” Hedren said. “We look forward to working with Congress as this important legislation moves ahead.”
Maryland’s Marlin Steel Wire Products has long been a leader in its industry—and, because of tax reform, it plans to bring new jobs to its Baltimore facility and invest in the latest technology that will keep it ahead of the competition.“From the moment tax reform was announced, Marlin Steel decided we’re all in,” said Marlin Steel President and Owner Drew Greenblatt. “We knew the economy would crank up and that there would be optimism—but it was like a gun shot off.”
First on the docket? Investing in the latest technology, to increase efficiency and help Marlin Steel meet skyrocketing demand for its products.
“We’ve reconfigured our factory and bought six robots from Arkansas, Ohio and Minnesota,” said Greenblatt. “We largely buy products that are made in America—American robots, American steel.”
Marlin Steel’s new technology includes a 121-ton stamping press from Ohio, which was delivered in July, as well as a robotic threader from Chicago, which was delivered at the end of August.
“Every order for new technology went out because I trusted that House Speaker Paul Ryan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and President Donald Trump would come through on their tax reform promises,” Greenblatt added. “And they did.”
In fact, Marlin Steel invested in so much new technology that it had to bring in a utility company to run new wires throughout its facility—adding seven and a half times the maximum power so it could handle the latest equipment.
Adding new equipment to deal with rising demand also means hiring new employees. Marlin Steel plans to increase dramatically the size of its staff by more than 20 percent. Many of these employees are formerly unemployed steelworkers from Baltimore—and Greenblatt takes special pride in helping them reenter the workforce.
“We’re helping bring people in Baltimore back into the middle class,” he said. “That’s what this is all about. We’re giving our employees the extraordinary tools they need to run circles around other countries, to make them more productive than workers in other countries.”
Already, Marlin Steel’s investment in productivity is helping bring business back from overseas. Greenblatt explained that a big customer recently closed a factory in India and moved those 15 product lines to Marlin Steel’s Baltimore facility—specifically because of Marlin Steel’s superior efficiency and quality.
“Suddenly, the U.S. is competitive again,” said Greenblatt. “We’re so enthusiastic about the future opportunities we have, thanks to tax reform.”
Huntington Ingalls Industries—the largest military shipbuilder in the United States—is planning a “generational” investment in its business and its employees, thanks to tax reform.“When tax reform came around, we knew we wanted to reinvest in our business,” explained Bill Ermatinger, executive vice president and chief human resources officer at Huntington Ingalls. “We put it on a whiteboard to see who our stakeholders were, and we came up with four: employees, customers, communities and shareholders.”
Huntington Ingalls set out to do just that. First on the agenda? Rewarding its nearly 40,000 employees in shipyards across the country.
“We decided our employees would benefit most from an immediate cash bonus,” said Ermatinger. “Every single employee received $500. That’s a lot of money. We got hugely positive feedback from our employees. One of our hourly employees at our Pascagoula, Mississippi, shipyard said, ‘I’ve been hearing about ‘trickle-down economics’ for years. And finally, something trickled down!’”
Huntington Ingalls also made a significant incremental contribution to its pension fund—adding $200 million—as a way of providing for its employees’ futures. While many pension funds across the nation face insolvency, Huntington Ingalls is well funded.
“We built upon what we’ve already been doing,” said Ermatinger. “We invest $100 million in workforce development and $40 million in educational reimbursement each year so we can invest in our employees.” Our employees and our customers will also benefit from what Huntington Ingalls dubbed a “generational capital infusement” in its facilities.
Before tax reform, the shipbuilder had planned to increase capital spending by $1.5 billion by 2020. But now, the company has upped that number by a whopping $300 million—to $1.8 billion. That means more jobs being created—and it will also help U.S. taxpayers, because savings will be passed along to Huntington Ingalls’ client: the U.S. Navy.
Huntington Ingalls also plans to increase dramatically the amount of money it spends in its communities. In fact, because of tax reform, the company has tripled its corporate giving.
“We decided we needed to make an investment in the communities we live in,” said Ermatinger. “Even for the people who don’t work for us.”
“Whether it be United Way, the Boys and Girls Club, the food bank, the Red Cross—you name it,” said Ermatinger. “If Huntington Ingalls is in the community, they saw a benefit.”
Huntington Ingalls’ significant investments in workers, facilities and communities comes as a direct result of tax reform.
“Because of tax reform, we’re able to do a heck of a lot more than we thought we would,” said Ermatinger. “I can assure you: without tax reform, most of these things would not have been possible.”
“I am always asked: Are you going to make these kind of huge investments every year? And my answer is, we don’t know what the future holds, but we already have made these commitments that far exceed HII’s tax-reform benefits beyond one year.”