EDITOR’S NOTE: This column is by Jay Timmons, left, president and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers.
“Washington is broken.” Those three words seem to best sum up the state of our government these days. You hear those words everywhere, from business owners and workers trying to make ends meet, from families struggling to get ahead and even from our elected representatives in Washington. In fact, it’s about the only thing on which Democrats and Republicans can actually agree. And it’s certainly something we often hear when discussing policy issues with manufacturers big and small, both here in Illinois and across America.
Yet, despite the gridlock in Washington on issues like taxes, immigration, government regulations, trade and exports that have hamstrung our potential, American manufacturing jobs have been on the rise. That increase is fueled in part, by a new energy boom that is helping to transform our economy. And with the most highly skilled and productive workforce in the world, we’re ready to help lead America in the 21st-century economy.
In Illinois, manufacturers are helping to build a better future for workers, families and the state’s economy. Manufacturing contributed more than 13 percent to Illinois’ GDP in 2012, producing $92.4 billion in goods. Our industry employs 10 percent of Illinois’ workforce, and our jobs pay better as well. Someone employed in an Illinois manufacturing facility can expect to earn $29,000 more a year on average than other nonfarm workers.
Manufacturing isn’t just making a comeback. Manufacturing in America is back. But we’re still not growing at the capacity we should, due to a government that often seems to go out of its way to punish successful enterprises and stand in the way of growth. We need government policies that help spur innovation, encourage job creation and reduce the uncertainty that’s holding us back from reaching our full potential. In short, we need a government that works.
That’s why the National Association of Manufacturers is partnering with the leaders of some of America’s largest and most dynamic companies on a campaign to engage manufacturers across the country on the issues that matter most. And starting this week in Chicago, we’ll be launching a new dialogue about the best path forward for American business and the government policies needed for us to succeed. We’ll be encouraging manufacturers of all sizes to get more involved in the political process, engage in civic discourse and help to elect the government we need to get us back on the right path.
The issues facing our country today are far too important for America’s business leaders to stand on the sidelines. Our manufacturing sector supports more than 17 million jobs, accounts for 12.5 percent of our GDP and would represent the world’s eighth-largest economy on its own. And regardless of political affiliation, the fact is that both parties need to do more and be held accountable to find ways to fix the gridlock that has been crippling our government for so long.
The business community has a huge stake in this process. Decisions made by our government affect not only manufacturers’ bottom lines, but also the millions of hardworking men and women who work in manufacturing. To help fix a broken system, our manufacturing leaders must speak out and demand action from our elected representatives and advocate the types of government policies that will put them in the best position to compete in today’s global marketplace.
Like Alexis de Tocqueville once said: in a democracy, you get the government you deserve. America’s manufacturers remain hopeful for the day when the government we deserve and the government we need will be one in the same.