Fair-trade legislation and incentives to rebuild the nation’s manufacturing base are prescribed.
By DON SHILLING
VINDICATOR BUSINESS EDITOR
YOUNGSTOWN — Where is the rage? wonders an editor who has covered the devastation of the U.S. manufacturing industry.
Industries have disappeared at an alarming rate because of what Richard McCormack considers unfair trade and foreign currency manipulation.
Recent stimulus and jobs legislation coming out of Washington, D.C., have only made the decline worse, said the editor and publisher of Manufacturing & Technology News, who spoke Thursday at a Williamson Symposium hosted by Youngstown State University’s business school.
The Virginia-based editor said the bills contain few incentives for creating private-sector jobs, while they add to the nation’s mounting debt.
For example, he said last year’s $787 billion federal stimulus bill contained just $2 billion that encouraged long-term, private-sector jobs. That item provided loan guarantees for green-energy products.
“Manufacturers think it has backfired because they think they have to pay the bill,” McCormack said.
The result is increased borrowing from China, he added.
He wondered why the nation’s small manufacturers haven’t been able to make their voices heard and why average Americans don’t seem to care that good-paying manufacturing jobs have been lost by the millions.
Making of shoes, clothes and furniture has been shipped overseas, while new industries such as cell-phone production are being set up in other countries.
When asked by an audience member what a trade war would look like if the U.S. enacted tariffs or other protections, McCormack said other countries long ago targeted U.S. industries.
“We’re in a trade war, and we lost,” he said.
He advised about 60 business and union leaders at the symposium to begin reading the federal bills and push politicians to support fair trade and incentives to create manufacturing plants in the U.S.
“We want our country back from financiers and multinational companies,” he said.
The message resonated with those in attendance.
Ed Rumble, owner of Jet Stream in Niles, said he was unable to send in a reservation for the event but came anyway because he wants to become more involved.
China is the main competition for his 30-employee company, which manufactures parts for plumbers and electricians. Rumble said those competitors can ship products at unfair prices because of how their government handles its currency pricing and subsidizes those companies.
“It’s a little depressing,” said Rumble, who said his seven-year-old company is doing fine by keeping its costs down and focusing on service.
But he added that he believes in the entrepreneurial spirit of Americans.
“We can bring it back. I have to believe in that. I made an investment in that,” he said.
McCormack said legislators such as U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Niles, D-17th, and U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Avon, support manufacturers, but more help is needed to create national policies that are driven by manufacturers, not large retailers that are focused on delivering low-cost goods.
“We were No. 1 for a while, and we got complacent. We have to reinvent ourselves,” he said.