Friday, September 27, 2013

Is Manufacturing Really All That Important?

If the Great Recession taught us anything, it's that sustainable wealth creation and the jobs that come with it don't come from Wall Street, but from the actual creation of goods. We were reminded that our recovery and economic health depend on the middle class, which has historically driven an innovative manufacturing sector. With every job created and innovation introduced by these companies, we're reminded that manufacturing is the engine that drives this economy — and the rest of the world — forward.

That's why we'll join thousands of others to commemorate this year's Manufacturing Day, October 4. The mission of the day is to address common misconceptions about the industry by opening our doors to the public — to show people what manufacturing is and what it isn't.

We can talk about how we contribute to the economy — both here at home and abroad. Manufacturing pumped $1.87 trillion to the U.S. economy in 2012, up from $1.73 trillion the year prior, according to the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM). That was 11.9 percent of the GDP, by the way. For every dollar spent in the industry, $1.48 goes to the economy, making it the most tangibly productive economic sector.

We can talk about jobs, how manufacturing sustains about 17.2 million in the U.S. That's one in six private-sector gigs. Some 9 percent of the workforce are employed in manufacturing, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

We can talk about pay. We can remind the public that the average manufacturing employee in America takes home $77,060 a year with pay and benefits, per the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Compare that to the average across all industries: $60,168. The higher pay makes our nation's manufacturing sector the most productive in the world, NAM says, leading to higher wages and higher quality of life.

We can talk about innovation, and how U.S. manufacturing — which, taken alone, would stand as the 10th largest economy on the planet — is responsible for two-thirds of all private-sector research and development, making it more innovative than any other sector, according to the National Science Foundation.

We can talk about the skilled labor gap, how about 600,000 manufacturing jobs remain vacant across the U.S. We can talk about the need to fill them, but also about some of the barriers. Sure we need more people with the right skills to keep up with the ever-evolving industry, one that's becoming increasingly high tech. But we can also look at the shorter-term causes, like how some companies embattled during the recession cut training budgets and learned to get by with less human capital.

We can talk about the future, most of all. How do we convince the next generation to get educated, pick up the advanced skills they need to staff our companies in the future and come up with brilliant ideas that galvanize manufacturing, that make it such a great field to be part of?

For more information about Manufacturing Day, go to

And remember to tweet #MFG, #CA, and #BWGmfgday, especially on October 4 - Manufacturing Day!