A Publication of WTVP

    “The U.S. manufacturing sector should not be taken for granted. It is at the heart of a process that is critical to the health of the United States economy—the process of generating prosperity, i.e., wealth and real income gains.”

This simple statement from a national study on innovation underscores the important role manufacturing plays in creating a high standard of living for residents in communities throughout the U.S. And yet, consider these quotes taken from a recent survey of young people in response to the question, “What comes to mind, when you hear the word manufacturing?”

• “Dark, dirty, dangerous, dead-end, demeaning.”
• “Assembly line.”
• “Torturous and tedious.”
• “Like an ant in a colony.”
• “Low pay, lay-offs, polluters, and scandal.”
• “Old economy.”
• “Declining, unimportant, gone off-shore.”

Doesn’t exactly make you want to rush out and apply for a manufacturing job, does it? These opinions are no doubt fed by news reports that the U.S. manufacturing base is no longer relevant, on life support, and in irreversible decline. Make no mistake, the picture isn’t rosy for goods-producing domestic manufacturers who’ve struggled with intense price pressure and foreign competition. But is it really as bad as we hear and read?

Today, because of the tremendous strides manufacturers have made to operate more efficiently, retool, and update the skills of their workforce, U.S. output of manufactured goods is the highest it’s ever been. Manufacturing is returning to the same level of profitability as in the early ’90s. And, believe it or not, China is actually losing jobs at a faster rate than the U.S. In Illinois alone, manufacturers:

• Produce 14 percent of state gross product.
• Are the cornerstone of local economy, producing two to five jobs for every new job.
• Pay workers $6,000 more annually than the average salaries in other sectors.
• Are critical to stabilizing economies of rural communities.

Government and economic development leaders in communities like Peoria, built on a proud foundation of manufacturing, must continue to make manufacturing growth a priority by:

• Helping manufacturers make the changes needed to survive and thrive.
• Working with manufacturers to transition out of commodity manufacturing…and into higher margin products.
• Easing the barriers to entry into international markets.
• Understanding that manufacturing health can’t be measured by job creation alone.
• Strengthening manufacturing foundations (technology, transportation, training, education, and capital).  IBI