Advanced Computing in the Age of AI|Wednesday, July 8, 2020
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Does the US Need a National Manufacturing Policy? 

Manufacturers across the country are eager for an overarching strategy that unites the current patchwork of initiatives.

It's time for a national manufacturing policy, according to a group of Midwest manufacturers, as reported by WBEZ Chicago Public Media.

Manufacturers want to make sure that they are still a priority to this country, and what better way to show that support than by enacting a national policy, they reason. Germany, Japan and China all have cohesive manufacturing frameworks, and many manufacturers across the US think we need a united American manufacturing program that will drive national competitiveness, innovation and wealth.

The WBEZ story cites Bill Rayl, head of the Jackson Area Manufacturers Association near Ann Arbor, Michigan:

"There needs to be some sort of coordination at the top level that says all of these things add up to something bigger. And, right now we don't have that," says Rayl.

Jim McGregor, vice chairman of McGregor metalworking in Springfield, Ohio, agrees. He thinks a national manufacturing policy would go a long way toward combating the current climate of fear and uncertainty that permeates the economic landscape.

But America is not Japan or China, or even Europe, not when it comes to pursuing broad-based federal initiatives, especially where private industry in concerned. For its part, the Obama Administration has propagated a series of ad hoc manufacturing initiatives, but has not got behind the idea of one-policy-to-rule-them-all. In February 2011, the President named Ron Bloom as his assistant for manufacturing and in June laid out plans for the the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership (AMP), a public-private sector partnership that aims to bring about a renaissance in American manufacturing. But in August, Bloom stepped down from the position to spend time with his family, and so far the position remains unfilled.

Bloom, a key player in the federal bailout of GM and Chrysler, weighs in on the subject:

"I don't think we have a formal, capital-P policy in the sense of something you can look up — a bound volume, as it were. We did not think it was a good use of our time to try and formalize a capital-P policy."

"What we do have is an administration that has pushed a number of initiatives that help manufacturing, if not exclusively," Bloom states.

As for that auto bailout? That should be the rare exception, says Bloom.

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