Making It in America

Gary S. Vasilash

Last week at an Applied Materials plant in Austin, TX, President Barack Obama told the assembled, “After shedding jobs for a decade, our manufacturers have added now about 500,000 new manufacturing jobs over the past three years.  That’s good news.  Caterpillar is bringing jobs back from Japan, and Ford is bringing jobs back from Mexico.  And after placing plants in other countries like China, Intel is opening its most advanced plant right here at home.  This year, Apple started making Macs in America again. 

Opening of a New Era at Flat Rock Assembly Plant

Outside the Flat Rock Assembly Plant in Michigan, where Ford invested $555-million, in part, to capacitize the plant to build the Ford Fusion, which is also being built in the company’s plant in Mexico.

“So there are some good trend lines there, but we've got to do everything we can to strengthen that trend.  We've got to do everything we can to help the kind of high-tech manufacturing that you're doing right here at Applied.  And we want to make sure it takes root here in Austin and all across the country.  And that means, first of all, creating more centers of high-tech manufacturing.

“Last year, we launched our first manufacturing innovation institute in Youngstown, Ohio, to develop new technologies and equip workers with the skills required to master 3-D printing techniques.  And in my State of the Union address, I called on Congress to set up 15 more of these manufacturing hubs all across America, and I said that my administration was going to go ahead and move forward with three new hubs on our own, even without congressional action.

“Well, today, we're launching a competition for those hubs.  We are looking for businesses and universities that are willing to partner together to help their region -- help turn their region into global centers of high-tech jobs.  Because we want the next revolution in manufacturing to be ‘Made in America.’  We’re going to do that.”

Regardless of who you voted, for, we can undoubtedly all agree that making things in America is absolutely essential for the well being of our economy.

Indeed, according to a recent Gallup poll, 45% of Americans said they made a special effort to “Buy American.”

Again, a good thing.

But what’s a little troubling is that when asked why they did so, Gallup found these answers:

  • To support the U.S./Buy American/Patriotic 32%
  • Keeps/Creates jobs in U.S. 31%
  • Good for U.S. economy 20%
  • Better quality/Better products in general 13%
  • Don’t trust products made abroad/Afraid to buy 3%
  • Other 9%
  • No opinion 2%

While there is something to be said for those who are buying American to support the country, jobs and the overall economy, there is something troubling about the low number associated selection of U.S.-made products because they are better.



Now this is not to say that this means a huge majority thinks that products made in America are not as good as those made elsewhere.

But the goal of any manufacturing initiative—federal, state or local—ought to be one where it isn’t just about manufacturing or even “high-tech” manufacturing, but it ought to be about building the best products in the world such that it is unthinkable that a given product made in the U.S.A. wouldn’t be the number-one choice, patriotic or not.