What Manufacturers Should Look for in Tonight’s State of the Union Address

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President Obama will lay out his agenda for the next four years in the annual State of the Union (SOTU) Address.  So what should manufacturers look for in the speech?  Will manufacturing be a central focus for the second year in a row?

As we previously reported in this blog, President Obama said the word “manufacturing” 16 times during his 2012 address, compared to three times in 2011 and zero times in 2009.  In fact, manufacturing was largely ignored in SOTUs during the first decade of the 21st century based on the number of times President said the word during their address:

2001-03 — 0 (zero)

2004 — 2

2005-09 – 0 (zero)

2010 — 2

2011 — 3

2012 — 16

The White House has already announced that the President will feature manufacturing in tonight’s address. According to the Detroit News, White House spokesperson Jay Carney indicated that manufacturing would be a major focus of the speech:

From the Detroit News:

White House press secretary Jay Carney said Monday that Obama’s speech will focus on jobs.

He highlighted the “remarkable turnaround in manufacturing” which has added 500,000 jobs. But, he said, the gains “are not irreversible and they are not complete.”

Obama created a White House Advanced Manufacturing Partnership Steering Committee that included Ford president and CEO Alan Mulally, University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman, and Dow Chemical chairman and CEO Andrew Liveris, which issued a July 2012 report on manufacturing.

“The nation’s historic leadership in advanced manufacturing is at risk. The threat to our advanced manufacturing sector places our economy as a whole at risk, jeopardizes our international trade, and, above all, undermines the innovation that our nation needs to thrive in the future,” the report said.

“However, with a sustained focus, alignment of interests, and coordinated action by industry, academia, and government, the nation can retain its leading position in advanced manufacturing. … To reinvigorate the U.S. economy and pursue long-term economic prosperity, America must reject the notion that the nation should let go of its manufacturing sector in favor of services. No other sector creates more high paying jobs that sustain a vast swath of American households.”

From the late 1960s through the late 1990s, factory jobs held steady at between 17 million to 18 million.

Then, over the 10-year-period beginning in 2000, the United States lost 6 million factory jobs, or about one-third of all jobs. Manufacturing as a percentage of all U.S. jobs fell to less than 9 percent from more than 20 percent in 1999. That’s the lowest share of U.S. jobs since World War II.

Manufacturing remains a big driver of the U.S. economy. In 2009, manufacturers spent $195 billion on research and development, accounting for 70 percent of all domestic R&D performed in the United States.

To emphasize the importance of training workers for manufacturing skills, A machinist from Kentucky, Brad Henning, will be sitting with Mrs. Obama in the gallery during the speech.  A nice profile of Mr. Henning can be found here.

The Washington Post points out that the President’s mentioning manufacturing 16 times last year didn’t bring about many results.  According to the Post:

Obama: “Here’s a proposal: Help manufacturers eliminate energy waste in their factories and give businesses incentives to upgrade their buildings. Their energy bills will be $100 billion lower over the next decade, and America will have less pollution, more manufacturing, more jobs for construction workers who need them. Send me a bill that creates these jobs.”

The Post reports that the proposal went nowhere in Congress.

So how many times will the President mention manufacturing tonight?  And will it result in new policies?  Stay tuned.

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