Manufacturing Report Applauded

January 19, 2004
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GRAND RAPIDS — Local manufacturing interests are pleased with a recently released report, “Manufacturing in America: A Comprehensive Strategy to Address the Challenges to U.S. Manufacturers,” and predict it will have an impact in West Michigan.

The report, issued by the Bush administration on Friday, includes recommendations to reduce external costs such as making recently enacted tax cuts permanent, minimizing tax complexity and compliance, conducting a regulatory review, lowering health care costs, modernizing the U.S. legal system, enacting comprehensive energy legislation and ensuring that trade agreements benefit domestic workers.

Several of these proposals were first spelled out in a 1999 report called “The American Worker Project,” co-authored by U.S. Rep. Peter Hoekstra, R-Holland.

“President Bush and Commerce Secretary (Donald) Evans are to be commended for making U.S. manufacturing a national priority,” Hoekstra said. “This comprehensive policy agenda and renewed focus on such a vital sector of the American economy is a welcome first step, but will require intense work to be effectively implemented.”

Measures included in the report are significant and specific to manufacturers in West Michigan, most importantly maintaining support for the Manufacturing Extension Partnership program and creating a President’s Manufacturing Council, he said. MEP programs provide technical assistance and support services to small manufacturers, and a manufacturing council will provide people whose responsibility is to retain and increase manufacturing jobs a voice in government decisions affecting their industry, Hoekstra said.

“West Michigan manufacturers have consistently advocated for a stronger voice and more effective voice in Washington,” said Birgit Klohs, president of The Right Place Inc. “We think our message is being heard.”

The report’s recommendations are in line with Right Place’s Manufacturers Council’s position paper, “A Growth and Innovation Agenda for Manufacturers,” Klohs said. Right Place and Hoekstra continue to push for reinstated funding for the MEP — funding had been reduced to $39.6 million this year from $106 million last year — which is the only technical assistance program for smaller American manufacturers.

The administration’s plan also outlines the responsibilities of an Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Manufacturing and Services, a position for which Hoekstra and Michigan manufacturers have long advocated.

“With economic recovery gaining momentum, it is imperative that policymakers review the U.S. bureaucratic and regulatory structure,” Hoekstra said. “As the report indicates, we need to increase pressure on policymakers to redefine the role of U.S. manufacturers in the global marketplace. The future of American businesses’ ability to compete, and to provide for and ensure a highly skilled and educated work force, absolutely depends upon it.”    

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