Manufacturers Find Opportunity in AI
How will AI change the work you and your employees do? The Manufacturing Leadership Council—the digital transformation arm of the NAM—is helping manufacturing leaders figure out the opportunities created by new generative AI technologies, including ChatGPT.
Recently, the MLC held a Decision Compass discussion to help manufacturers learn how to take advantage of these new tools safely and effectively.
The participants: The conversation was led by two members of West Monroe’s Center of Excellence for AI: Ryan Elmore and David McGraw. Elmore and McGraw shared their expertise and addressed questions from manufacturers throughout the call.
The use cases: AI is a diverse and complex tool that is likely to have a lasting impact on manufacturers across the United States. According to McGraw and Elmore, there are a range of applications for the technology, from supply chain optimization and production planning to predictive maintenance issues.
The workforce impact: According to Elmore, AI will also transform the manufacturing workforce.
- Some roles that involve repetitive tasks like data processing could be adjusted or eliminated, while some new jobs will be created around tasks like prompt engineering, which ensures AI programs deliver the most useful and accurate results. Most importantly, however, existing jobs will likely be modified to account for new tools.
- “Some are going to go away, some are going to be created, but the vast majority is going to change mentality, change infrastructure, change the way we work,” said Elmore.
Prompting success: Elmore and McGraw emphasized that the key to using generative AI effectively is developing useful prompts. How you ask AI programs for information, and what data you provide, will determine the quality of the output. They provided a few broad guidelines:
- Keep it simple: Your prompts should be detailed, precise and as succinct as possible.
- Data matters: The better and more detailed your data, the better your output will be.
- Keep it human: Generative AI still requires a human to determine the reliability of the output. Manufacturers shouldn’t plan to use outputs blindly without keeping a human in the loop.
- Share safely: Assume anything you put into AI that is not behind a paywall is not private. Only use data that you’re comfortable with others viewing.
- Follow up: If you receive outputs that don’t make sense, or that indicate some sort of failure, ask the program for more context and problem solving to assess whether the output is accurate or beneficial.
Safety first: AI can also be used in negative ways—for example, by cyber attackers attempting to gain private information from you using software that mimics the voice of someone you know.
- Elmore and McGraw emphasized that manufacturers using AI should consider providing trainings so employees can recognize and guard against safety issues.
The last word: “I think most importantly, you’re only limited to your imagination,” said McGraw. “There’s really a lot of use cases that can be solved with this technology.”
Learn more: Want to find out more about how digital tools are changing manufacturing? The MLC will delve deeper into these issues at this year’s Rethink Summit, taking place June 26–28 in Marco Island, Florida. Learn more and register here.
Creators Wanted Tour Revs Up at Indy 500
The Creators Wanted Tour, a joint project of the National Association of Manufacturers and the Manufacturing Institute, set new records at the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing”: the Indianapolis 500.
By the numbers: The tour’s 17th stop, generously sponsored by Snap-on, allowed nearly 1,600 young fans and their families to experience modern manufacturing first-hand.
- In addition, more than 72,000 students and career mentors signed up online to learn more about manufacturing careers.
- So far, over 10,000 students have taken part in the immersive experience since its launch in October 2021, with 84% of participants reporting an improved view of modern manufacturing careers. Online signups have now surpassed 1.3 million.
What they’re saying: “’Creators Wanted’ is a critical message to all young people, parents, caregivers and educators across our country,” said Snap-on CEO Nick Pinchuk, who is also an NAM executive committee member and MI board member.
- “Snap-on is proud to bring the Creators Wanted Tour to the [Indianapolis Motor Speedway] and the Indianapolis 500, showing younger race fans and their families that manufacturing is an exciting place where the opportunities are many, the careers are rewarding and the lives are filled with the pride of being part of something greater than yourself,” he continued.
- NAM President and CEO and MI Chairman of the Board Jay Timmons added, “The world’s largest single day sporting event met the nation’s largest manufacturing campaign—and it revved up enthusiasm about modern manufacturing in a big way with more students and their families.”
Behind the scenes: Alongside the Creators Wanted experience at Fan Midway at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS), fans were also treated to a number of other interactive exhibits.
- These included: Snap-on’s “Makers and Fixers” tent; Honda’s racing simulator and vehicle fleet; the IMS Kids Zone where young fans raced on their own track; and FactoryFix’s activities and resources to help people find their path into manufacturing careers, including its work through CreatorsWanted.org.
- “Seeing folks at Indy curious about our ‘Creators Wanted’ campaign was such a great confirmation of the research and testing we did to arrive at the name for this effort,” said Erin Streeter, Executive Vice President of the NAM. “When parents and kids asked us about the type of creators we need in manufacturing, it just showed how spot-on our message really is.”
- The NAM video team captured some of the fan sentiment with this video.
The big picture: “These tour stops often serve as the first interaction individuals have with the NAM and the MI, and the impression is powerful,” said Chrys Kefalas, Managing Vice President of Brand Strategy at the NAM. ” These meaningful personal interactions create lasting impressions and underscore the industry’s value.”
Bechtel, Siemens Talk Infrastructure and Workforce
Implementation of programs and funding from 2021’s historic, bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is now in full swing—and manufacturers are already hard at work.
What’s going on: During discussions at an Infrastructure Week event hosted by United For Infrastructure earlier this month, leaders from Bechtel and Siemens USA discussed the significant social and economic impact of infrastructure investment.
- The Business Roundtable “commissioned a study to look at the economic impact [of] every taxpayer dollar invested in infrastructure, and we concluded that [each dollar] generates $4 in economic growth,” said Bechtel Chairman and CEO Brendan Bechtel, who is also chair of the BRT Infrastructure Committee. “We concluded that a trillion dollars in infrastructure investment over 10 years unlocks, on average, additional household disposable income of $1,800 a year for every family in the United States. Modern infrastructure creates a huge amount of social, environmental and economic benefits.” Bechtel spoke alongside Maryland Gov. Wes Moore and White House Senior Advisor and Infrastructure Coordinator Mitch Landrieu on a panel.
- More benefits of the investment in infrastructure are on display in the many projects of industrial technology company Siemens USA, according to the company’s Vice President and Head of U.S. Government Affairs Brie Sachse.
- Sachse discussed the recent opening of Siemens’ second U.S. electric-vehicle charging manufacturing hub in Carrollton, Texas, as well as a partnership with utility ComEd in the historic Bronzeville neighborhood of Chicago. There, Siemens is providing the management software for a first-of-its-kind, utility-owned microgrid cluster. “It will lead to cleaner, more reliable power for a neighborhood in the midst of revitalization,” Sachse said during a lightning round at the event. “We’re enthusiastic about the momentum to electrify America.”
Permitting reform and workforce: Both Bechtel and Sachse stressed the critical importance of filling current and future open manufacturing jobs. Bechtel echoed NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons—who spoke on an earlier panel—when he stressed the need for infrastructure-project permitting reform at the congressional level.
- “The shortage of construction workers is real. It’s the current constraint throttling how much work we feel we can responsibly commit to and deliver at once,” Bechtel said. “I think it’s the single most important thing that we can all address besides permitting reform.”
- After the event, Bechtel thanked industry allies and business leaders “for continuing to lead on improving the permitting system so we can move projects through the pipeline more efficiently.”
The power of apprenticeships: The companies are betting on apprentice programs to help fill jobs.
- Siemens recently launched an apprentice program in Wendell, North Carolina, to “support the growing EV market,” Sachse said, adding that apprenticeships like this one are “opening the door for career pathways that are both well-paying and meaningful.”
- To fill the worker shortage, “we’re doubling down on the things we know that work,” Bechtel said. For example, the company uses apprentice readiness programs, in which people are “learning while they’re earning [and] they’re accessing and accumulating health and retirement benefits that they wouldn’t otherwise.”
Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines! Heroes MAKE America is Reaching More Veterans
When service members leave the military, manufacturers are quick to say: “Come on over!” Military skills are usually a great match for manufacturing careers, which require attention to detail, technical abilities and creative thinking. And there’s no better matchmaker than the Manufacturing Institute’s Heroes MAKE America initiative, which since 2018 has been offering training certification programs and career courses to transitioning service members and veterans.
Today, HMA not only serves service members on military installations across the country but has also expanded its reach via a virtual training program.
Widening the reach: Now in its second year, the virtual training program has allowed HMA to impact service members on a national scale.
- For the first time, members from four branches—Army, Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy—are participating in the same class at the same time.
- Additionally, the geographic range of participants has increased to comprise students located far and wide, including in Alaska, Arizona, Delaware, Kansas and Kentucky.
- The program has reached more than 120,000 prospective students through local transition assistance, HMA’s LinkedIn and Facebook presence and the SkillBridge website.
How it works: HMA partnered with Texas State Technical College to create a virtual nine-week training and certification program.
- Participants earn nationally portable, industry-recognized Certified Production Technician certification as well as an OSHA 10 certification.
- Through Heroes Connect, HMA also partners with sponsors like Johnson & Johnson, The Caterpillar Foundation, Amazon, Howmet Aerospace, WestRock, Saint-Gobain, Atlas Copco, Cargill, FUCHS Lubricants Company, C.H. Guenther & Sons, Honda Foundation, Niagara Bottling and the NAFEM, PPI and SEMI Associations to connect program graduates and members of the military community with manufacturers.
What we’re saying: “It’s exciting to see members from four branches of the military all in one virtual classroom together,” said Heroes MAKE America Senior Program Manager Katie Bowerman. “There’s a lot of strength in that kind of diversity.”
Spread the word: Do you have jobs for which HMA students might qualify, or know of a service member who would want to join the program? The HMA virtual program is open to any transitioning service member who is in their last six months of active-duty service, as well as to veteran and active-duty military spouses. For more information, contact [email protected].
NAM to SEC in Court: Get Activist Shareholders Out of Boardrooms
Activist shareholders from across the ideological spectrum have increasingly influenced public companies’ proxy ballots, and the Securities and Exchange Commission has unlawfully become their willing partner. That’s why the NAM has moved to intervene in a court case on the matter.
What’s going on: The NAM yesterday filed a motion to intervene in a case challenging the SEC’s authority to compel manufacturers to use their proxy ballots to speak about divisive social and political issues that are unrelated to a company’s business or long-term value.
- If granted intervenor status, the NAM will argue that the SEC’s rules requiring companies to include activist proposals on the proxy ballot violate federal securities law and the First Amendment.
The background: An activist group that holds shares in Kroger Co. sought a shareholder vote on a proposal to have the grocery chain issue a public report concerning its equal opportunity employment policy.
- Kroger sought permission from the SEC to exclude the proposal from its proxy ballot, which the SEC granted. The group has sued the SEC, accusing the agency of acting in an inconsistent and politically motivated manner.
Why it’s important: Though the SEC rejected this proposal, the agency often requires companies to publish shareholder proposals it deems to have “broad societal impact.
- The NAM’s motion to intervene argues that the SEC’s requirement that companies publish and respond to these proposals is a violation of the First Amendment’s prohibition on government-compelled speech.
- Furthermore, federal securities law does not permit the SEC to dictate the content of company proxy statements, so the agency’s politicization of corporate governance has unlawfully federalized issues that have traditionally been governed under state corporate law.
Unnecessary—and increasing: Forcing manufacturers to take political positions on their proxy ballots drives up costs for the companies and draws needless and unwanted controversy, the NAM says. Yet, the number of activist proposals on proxy ballots is only growing.
- “In total, 682 shareholder proposals were filed for annual meetings being held through May 31,” The Wall Street Journal (subscription) reported.
How we got here: The NAM has been urging the SEC to prioritize the needs of long-term shareholders over activists’ agendas for many years.
- The NAM opposed the SEC’s guidance requiring companies to include most environmental and social proposals on their proxy ballots.
- It also urged the agency not to move forward with a proposed rule limiting companies’ ability to exclude activist proposals.
The last word: “The corporate proxy ballot is not the appropriate venue for policy decisions better made by America’s elected representatives, and manufacturers are regularly caught in the middle as activists on the left and the right bring fights from the political arena into the boardroom,” said NAM Chief Legal Officer Linda Kelly.
- “The NAM Legal Center is standing up for manufacturers to ensure they can focus on growing their businesses, driving economic expansion and job creation and creating value for shareholders.”
An Electrical Manufacturer Sparks Inclusion and Diversity
Manufacturers nationwide are taking steps to ensure a supportive and respectful workforce that values the varied talents and backgrounds of all employees. nVent—a manufacturer of electrical connection and protection solutions—believes that inclusion and diversity initiatives have the potential to positively impact every part of its business.
Inclusion and diversity have been a priority for nVent since it became a public company in 2018. By identifying strategic initiatives for its inclusion and diversity efforts, nVent has become a thought leader in the electrical manufacturing industry. Five years later, those initiatives have become a comprehensive strategy that is embedded in the company’s operations.
“We may not always have the answers,” said Chief Inclusion and Diversity Officer Laura Brock, “But we want to make sure we create an opportunity for progress and share the resources we have developed with our customers and partners to drive inclusion in our industry.”
A comprehensive strategy: nVent’s strategy is built around four pillars designed to promote inclusion and diversity throughout the company, according to Brock and Inclusion and Diversity Manager Jasmin Buckingham.
- Employees: From recruitment onward and throughout the employee lifecycle, nVent ensures that inclusion and diversity is part of every employee’s experience.
- Communities: nVent strives to be “a good citizen” in its community by promoting shared economic growth through multiple avenues—including philanthropy. It has made inclusion and diversity a central aim of these efforts.
- Customers: The company supports a diverse range of customers in the electrical industry and works to meet all customers where they are.
- Suppliers: nVent is focused on supplier diversity, which promotes engagement, growth and innovation through diverse business relationships.
Other initiatives: nVent runs several initiatives within its pillar strategy to drive inclusion and diversity across the company:
- ERGs: Employee Resource Groups are an important part of inclusion and diversity at nVent. These groups are “the hands and feet of creating an inclusive culture,” according to Brock. All employees are welcome to join ERGs, which create connections between peers across the globe. The ERGs allow employees to share experiences and discuss topics that are important to them, she added.
- Workshops: After the murder of George Floyd in 2020, nVent hosted workshops where people could ask questions and engage in discussion about race and injustice. Attendance sometimes topped 900 employees.
- Learning circles: nVent created a series of additional opportunities to bring employees together in inclusive spaces. These smaller groups allow employees to share stories and engage in open conversation.
Accountability for inclusion: Brock and Buckingham made it clear that the company’s inclusion and diversity work requires constant progress and accountability—making it essential to track metrics and promote improvements.
- Through an “inclusion index”—an employee pulse survey that sent out four times a year—nVent employees share their honest feedback. The data is then used to generate ESG scorecards for departments and leaders, which are a factor in compensation.
- “The choices we make and the behaviors we exhibit impact our culture at nVent. Everyone plays a role in creating an inclusive and respectful environment for all,” according to Brock.
Taking the pledge: nVent is also a proud signatory of the NAM’s Pledge for Action, which commits the industry “to taking 50,000 tangible actions to increase equity and parity for underrepresented communities, creating 300,000 pathways to job opportunities for Black people and all people of color” by 2025.
Advice for the industry: Companies should “get comfortable being uncomfortable,” according to Buckingham. “It can be uncomfortable having these open conversations … but it is important and impactful so that you can learn and understand one another better to make it a more inclusive workplace.”
The Cost of Inaction on the Miscellaneous Tariff Bill
It’s been more than two years since the Miscellaneous Tariff Bill expired—and the lack of renewal is harming manufacturers in the U.S.
What’s going on: Manufacturers have been operating without an MTB—legislation that temporarily eliminates or reduces tariffs on products not available in the U.S.—since January 2021, when MTB legislation that had been passed in 2018 expired.
- The MTB is typically renewed every few years. In June 2021, the Senate passed an MTB measure as part of the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act, and the House passed a different version in the America COMPETES Act, but Congress did not agree to trade provisions in the final China competition legislation.
- No MTB legislation has been introduced during this Congress in either chamber.
Why it’s important: The result of this inaction has been a direct economic hit to manufacturers, particularly small and medium-sized manufacturers that are paying more for product inputs.
- Since the MTB expired in December 2020, manufacturers and other businesses have paid more than $1 billion—or $1.3 million per day—in anticompetitive tariffs for goods they cannot source in the U.S., according to an NAM analysis.
- The added costs can create higher prices for consumers, making it harder for American families to buy goods from manufacturers in the U.S.
- Due in part to these tariffs, some manufacturers are having difficulty maintaining current staffing levels and expanding opportunities for existing workers.
Hurting the heartland—and Ukraine: Sukup Manufacturing Co., headquartered in Sheffield, Iowa, is a family-owned and -operated manufacturer of grain-storage and grain-handling products. It is paying tens of thousands of dollars in tariffs to import components from the Kyiv province of Ukraine.
- In 2022, the company paid nearly $40,000 in tariffs on imports from Ukraine.
- Ukraine’s export market is essential to its economic development as well as its ability to withstand Russia’s invasion. The lack of an MTB is creating barriers between companies in the U.S. and their Ukrainian partners at exactly the wrong time.
Hurting a local economy: For Element Electronics, the last remaining U.S. producer of LCD TVs, the absence of an MTB has created a highly uneven playing field—which has led to layoffs of employees at the Winnsboro, South Carolina, facility.
- Mexican producers of LCD TVs buy the same LCD panels as Element but are allowed to import them duty-free. They are then able to export the finished TVs to the U.S. duty-free, too, putting Element at an unfair disadvantage.
- Restoring the MTB would allow the company to compete fairly and return to full production and employment.
Creating jobs overseas instead of in the U.S.: Glen Raven, a 143-year-old global fabric manufacturer based in Burlington, North Carolina, uses the MTB for duty-free access to raw materials that haven’t been made in the U.S. in decades. When the previous MTB expired, the company was compelled to invest in operations outside of the U.S.
- During the pandemic, the business created more than 200 jobs, but because of the tariffs, it could not afford to locate the positions in the U.S. and instead expanded operations in Europe and elsewhere.
- “While we are committed to job creation and investment in the U.S., if we are unable to be competitive in this environment, we have a responsibility to invest where we have the greatest opportunity to achieve our growth objectives,” said Glen Raven President and CEO Leib Oehmig.
Losing customers: The family-owned Nation Ford Chemical, another South Carolina manufacturer, makes products used every day by the U.S. military. The absence of an MTB has cost the small company customers and is jeopardizing some of its 80 jobs.
- In 2022, to make just one of its products—a jet-engine lubricant additive called PANA—the Fort Mill–based company spent almost $500,000 on duties alone.
- Tariffs have cost NFC so dearly that it may soon be forced to close the smoke-dye component of its business. If it does, the company would have to lay off up to 10 workers, and the U.S. military would have to source the product from foreign markets.
Costing taxpayers: ICF Mercantile, a manufacturer based in New Jersey, purchases raw materials that are not available in the U.S. for products it sells to NASA and the Defense Department.
- The company is forced to pass the cost of the 10% tariff on to its government customers, which ultimately increases costs for American taxpayers.
What we’re doing: The NAM continues to lead the business community in urging Congress to pass the MTB.
- “If Congress is serious about supporting manufacturers and workers in the United States, they must prioritize the passage of the MTB as soon as possible this year,” said NAM Director of Trade Facilitation Policy Ali Aafedt.
A Matchmaking Service for the Manufacturing Supply Chain
The NAM is a meeting place like no other, where manufacturers of all sizes and sectors gather to make the industry stronger. Recently, along with its partner CONNEX Marketplace, it invited manufacturing leaders to D.C. for high-level discussions about supply chain challenges.
The big picture: This meeting came at an exciting time for CONNEX. Formerly known as Manufacturers Marketplace, the program pivoted in 2022 to combine state-specific installations with the national platform and become a more powerful SaaS.
- Connecticut launched its own version of the CONNEX platform back in February, thanks to the support of the CBIA (a state business association and NAM partner) and the state’s chief manufacturing officer, Paul Lavoie—who discussed some early success stories at the D.C. event.
- “In the first two weeks, more than 200 companies joined, significantly more than the state’s most optimistic projections,” according to a Hartford Business Journal piece—and Lavoie told the paper he expects signups to blow past 750 in the first year.
- Meanwhile, Kentucky is also getting in on the action. The Kentucky Association of Manufacturers (also an NAM state partner) recently launched its own CONNEX Marketplace installation, which was announced by the governor. KAM CEO Frank Jemley also came to D.C. for the meeting, bringing his own success stories.
Talking the talk: The leaders in D.C. focused on how manufacturers can improve security and resiliency in the supply chain. They also discussed how local and state governments can ease supply chain challenges for businesses.
Security: As the participants observed, the key challenge is “illuminating risk” inside the supply chain, so that companies know what they’re facing.
- They discussed the many types of risks involved in supply chains, including cybersecurity, financial, business continuity, capacity and more.
- What’s next: CONNEX is working to integrate technology that will identify and highlight potential risks in a company’s specific supply chain.
Cooperation: The supply chain functions (or doesn’t) on the strength of manufacturers’ cooperation, from the largest companies to their smallest suppliers.
- Furthermore, competition is not company vs. company, but supply chain vs. supply chain, the participants agreed.
- Small manufacturers might benefit from a coach or guide to walk through the sourcing process so they understand how to remain resilient and competitive, one attendee recommended.
- What’s next: CONNEX is working on a playbook that entities such as manufacturing extension partnerships can use to help coach SMMs through the procurement process.
Progress: Executives from CONNEX reported more than 4,000 suppliers were connected to buyers in 2022, while the platform hosted 396 separate “postings” from manufacturers looking for specific parts or supplies.
The NAM will host another forum this fall where manufacturers will tackle supply chain issues. Contact NAM Senior Director of Member Business Services Anna Chongpinitchai for details.
“Mountaire Cares” Is More Than Just a Slogan
“Making a difference” might be the best description of what Mountaire Farms does. Founded in 1914, the fifth-generation family-owned chicken processing company has a long history of helping its communities thrive.
Mountaire Cares: Through its Mountaire Cares program, the company’s employees are committed to changing lives for the better.
- “The Mountaire Cares program was created to fulfill three main core pillars: how are we faithful to our people, how are we faithful to our communities and how can we look to be faithful to the future,” said Mountaire Cares Director JR LaPearl.
Meals for thousands: One of Mountaire Farms’ biggest events during the year is its Meals for Thousands program, where the company partners with local churches, food banks and nonprofit organizations to provide meals for families in need at Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas.
- The program had humble beginnings 28 years ago, with Roger Marino, who was PR and community relations director at Mountaire, leading the group to provide 300 meal boxes at Thanksgiving. The company has distributed more than 1 million boxes since then.
- For this year’s Easter event, the company’s employees and other volunteers packed 15,000 meal boxes, each of which contained a Mountaire roaster chicken; vegetables; macaroni and cheese; mashed potatoes and gravy; and brownies—enough food to feed a family of four.
- “Our employees really enjoy being a part of this effort to give back to the community,” LaPearl said. “What I love about these events is that they bring people together to share love and kindness to one another.”
Feeding all year long: But hunger doesn’t just exist during holidays. Mountaire Farms donates chicken to local food pantries every month so they can help fill the need all year long. And they partner with groups like nonprofit organizations, little leagues, fire companies and more that use chicken to help fundraise during the year.
And that’s not all . . . Mountaire’s food programs are just one way the company gives back. It has partnered with Habitat for Humanity and several Boys & Girls Clubs on service projects, while also collaborating with local schools on renovations of playgrounds and basketball courts.
Why they do it: For LaPearl, it all starts with the company’s mantra “High Performance for a Higher Purpose,” striving to be a positive light to those around them.
- “Our people are the reason we’re able to do what we do and give back,” said LaPearl. “If it’s not volunteering, it’s the everyday work that we do that really helps to feed families here locally, around the region and around the world. It’s interesting when our employees are upset they were unable to volunteer on a particular day. I remind them that what you’re doing on a daily basis is making a major impact in the lives of people that you don’t even know because of your hard work and performance.”
- “When I have the opportunity to visit our processing plants and I see people smiling, singing in their respective cultural languages and just enjoying their job, that speaks volumes in today’s culture. I can tell they love being here. That’s the way we’re built.”
Mountaire cares about its employees: Through Mountaire Cares, the company offers leadership classes to help employees succeed in their roles and advance in their careers. It also provides scholarships to children and grandchildren of employees.
- In addition, the company built medical facilities at each of its processing plants, and recently established a chaplaincy program that offers employees guidance in times of crisis and high stress.
The last word: LaPearl has some advice for manufacturers who may want to start a program similar to Mountaire’s:
- “Clearly understand your strengths as a company and create an exceptional foundation to build off that. We weren’t able to do all of this overnight, so start small and really focus the first few years on going slow and being purposeful. And always show your employees you care.”
Fix the Broken Permitting Process, NAM Tells Congress
A continuous regulatory onslaught is hamstringing the permitting process for U.S. energy and infrastructure projects—and thus reducing manufacturing competitiveness and harming the U.S. economy, NAM Vice President of Energy & Resources Policy Brandon Farris told Congress on Tuesday.
What’s going on: By consolidating and cleaning up our infrastructure permitting regulations, the U.S. can advance multiple top policy priorities, Farris said at “The Next Fifty Years of the Clean Water Act: Examining the Law and Infrastructure Project Completion,” a hearing of the House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure’s Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment.
- “Streamlining and modernizing our nation’s permitting laws and procedures will help us advance many of our nation’s shared priorities, improving the quality of life for all communities; modernizing our infrastructure; achieving energy security; ramping up critical mineral production; enhancing manufacturing competitiveness and creating manufacturing jobs in the U.S.,” Farris said. “These are goals that all Americans can support.”
Why the wait? Current wait times for the approval of critical manufacturing facilities, roads, bridges and more are needlessly lengthy, and they’re forcing business overseas, Farris continued.
- “Why should we settle for a permitting process that can take 10 or 15 years to approve essential projects?” he asked, adding that in Australia, a country with similar environmental protections, approvals take about two to three years.
- One manufacturer of critical raw materials for semiconductors recently told the NAM that “because of the regulatory uncertainty in obtaining a Clean Water Act section 402 permit in a timely manner . . . they are going to build a facility in the E.U.” instead of the U.S.
Steps to success: Manufacturers are urging legislators to take several actions to rectify the broken system. These are:
- Consolidate permitting processes—with enforceable deadlines—for the siting of new energy projects and their infrastructure;
- Speed up the approval process for transportation-infrastructure projects;
- Commit to developing our resources to strengthen U.S. supply chains for the critical minerals vital to national security;
- Ensure that the Biden administration follows congressional intent on all streamlining efforts, including the One Federal Decision, a Transportation Department approach that seeks to expedite certain federal environmental reviews.
The last word: “Permitting reform will help us achieve more—more manufacturing, more domestic energy production, more inputs and raw materials and more jobs,” Farris concluded. “And our country and the world will be better off if we and our allies do not depend on our authoritarian rivals for energy and other natural resources.”