It Starts Here was a program put on by the Ohio Manufacturers' Association in concert with the Ohio Chamber and the Ohio Steel Council. It was my pleasure to attend an event where nearly everyone sings from the same songbook and shares a vision for the U.S. with a revitalized manufacturing sector. Sometimes you just have to do that.
The forum was a place for Dan DiMicco, Chairman of Nucor Corporation (the steel guys), to share his strong message on the fight to get manufacturing back to the 20-to-30% of GDP that it once was in our country. Since we are at 10% now, getting back to 20% of GDP is an ambitious goal. However, DiMicco makes the point that investing in infrastructure, gaining energy independence, and enforcing free trade laws are the pillars of an approach that would create 25 million new jobs in the U.S. if achieved.
You're not likely to read about it anywhere else, so I'll share a few key points.
On rhetoric without action. DiMicco takes on those politicians who talk about manufacturing but, then, don't act on it with policy changes that help manufacturing compete. He's no "free trade" advocate if it doesn't come with fair trade implementation.
On the skills gap. DiMicco labels his colleagues that complain about the skills gap in the U.S. negative thinkers. He challenged the manufacturers in the room to get involved in making sure the labor pool is there for their future growth. He doesn't see it as just the government's job to solve this issue.
On energy independence. He cited the shale plays as bringing a growing gap between the cost of energy in the U.S. versus those costs in Germany, Japan, China, and other countries. Clearly, DiMicco advocates that export of our natural gas resources is a recipe for giving up our competitive edge.
On technology replacing jobs. Asked to answer the idea that technology is to blame for the loss of jobs, DiMicco said that technology may mean it takes less people to produce the same number of products. However, he challenged that growth comes from "seizing the productivity gains to grow the business and jobs." That's how jobs get created.
On the barriers to a national manufacturing policy. Asked to explain how some may label the call for a national manufacturing policy to be "socialistic" or government picking winners and losers, DiMicco remarked that such a policy would be for all of manufacturing not one sector over another sector. He reminded the questioner that other countries have figured out that a strong national manufacturing policy is the key to growing their economies.
On the story behind the story. For my part, I made a beeline for DiMicco afterward and urged his greater acquaintance with Joel Kotkin's research linking the demographics behind the story. I hope he does. His story is compelling and could be enhanced with the facts that Kotkin provides to back it up.
It starts here.
DiMicco ended with a showing of the Nucor video titled "It Starts Here." See it below.