Center for American Progress

We Must Continue to Build Manufacturing Expertise Within U.S. Borders
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We Must Continue to Build Manufacturing Expertise Within U.S. Borders

If our country is to maintain its innovation-led strategy for economic growth, we must continue to build manufacturing expertise and intellectual capital here within our borders, not let the decline continue.

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In recent years U.S. companies have faced many inducements to shift manufacturing overseas, drawn by low production costs and proximity to burgeoning markets, the result being a hollowing out of our industrial jobs base. The United States cannot and should not manufacture products across all industries, especially in fiercely cost-competitive mass production sectors, but our economy and our jobs market will suffer if we do not actively work to retain our prowess as a producer of innovative products at the leading edge of technology.

The United States became a global economic leader by building a diverse economy driven by a continuous innovation business model—one that values both inventing and manufacturing value-added products and sophisticated technologies. Domestic production is a critical source of family-supporting jobs, especially for the 60 percent of the workforce that lacks a four-year college degree. And our manufacturing base is the mechanism through which our world class investments in science, technology, education, and research are translated into the practical skills of innovative production methods, advanced engineering, and profitable businesses.

Unfortunately, the manufacturing sector is in decline. In 2008 only 13 percent of our national GDP came from manufacturing, down from over 20 percent in the late 1980s. At the same time, our trade deficit in manufactured goods now stands at over $600 billion. As our manufacturing base declines we risk losing our place in the forefront of innovation if we continue to let the leading edge of advanced manufacturing migrate overseas, taking with it millions of jobs and the technical know-how and practical strategies for reaching each successive generation of innovative products. If our country is to maintain its innovation-led strategy for economic growth, we must continue to build manufacturing expertise and intellectual capital here within our borders, not let the decline continue.

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