Saturday, March 28, 2015

Reshoring

This month, a young Nebraska woman named Autumn was awarded a "Women in Manufacturing STEP award" for her excellence in science, technology, engineering, and production. I had the pleasure of congratulating her for her hard work and ingenuity when she visited Washington. We talked about manufacturing's importance in providing good paying jobs that can support families and its role in strengthening and diversifying local economies.

During our meeting, we also discussed a promising trend: "reshoring." The word “outsourcing” appeared several years ago to describe the business phenomenon of companies shifting manufacturing and other services overseas. As more and more industrial products lost their American branding, the transfer in manufacturing triggered widespread alarm. "Reshoring,” the term that describes the trend of jobs returning to America, is an encouraging pattern and a great opportunity to accelerate our economic recovery.

Our recovery’s anemic pace has left the middle class circling in downward mobility, the working class struggling for economic security, and the poor trapped in generational stagnation. Americans are confronting static wages, an increased cost of living, and a de-industrialized market, which has been further harmed by government overreach impacting the small business sector. Declining blue collar earning power amid an entrepreneurial winter is disrupting the financial security of many families. But we have an opportunity on the horizon.

Manufacturing is central to small business success and to economic recovery. It has historically been one of America's—and Nebraska's—economic bright spots. Recently, it has experienced new growth. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Nebraska has added thousands of manufacturing jobs in recent years. Many of these jobs are found in Nebraska's First Congressional District, in what I like to call Nebraska's "manufacturing triangle." The communities of Columbus, Fremont, and Norfolk all boast a strong industrial base rooted in specialized manufacturing.

A number of factors contribute to "reshoring." Wage rates have leveled somewhat between the U.S. and other nations, while the cost of transporting raw materials and finished products has increased. Energy costs have dropped domestically, due to increased American energy production and the application of new practices and technology that increase energy efficiency

Another new word is mechatronics, which combines traditional fields of vocational education with advanced fields in the digital age: computer technology and engineering. Community colleges are beginning to implement programs in mechatronics, readying young people for extraordinary opportunities in manufacturing and empowering them to use their skill sets to provide high levels of wages and to create long term economic stability.

It will be innovative manufacturers like Autumn, though, who will help ensure that "reshoring" is not just a trend, but an important component of America's economic recovery. If we are serious about rebuilding the "Made in America" label, the innovation and vision of manufacturing leaders and small business entrepreneurs in Nebraska offers the nation a solid model of how to move forward.

About the Author:

JEFF FORTENBERRY has served as the U.S. Representative for Nebraska's 1st congressional district since 2005. He is the Chairperson for the Subcommittee on Department Operations, Oversight, Nutrition and Forestry. Vice Chair of the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health and Human Rights and has a seat on the Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia. He is a member of the following Caucus groups: Civil War Battlefield Caucus - Congressional Biofuels Caucus - Congressional Farmer Cooperative Caucus - House Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Caucus - International Conservation Caucus - Sportsmen's Caucus.

Congressman Fortenberry has become the most knowledgeable representative on Capitol Hill for nuclear security issues.

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