Over the past few weeks, executives from the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) were on what they called a “2017 State of Manufacturing Tour,” which began at the Emerson Innovation Center in Austin, Texas. The tour was a series of stops in six states to talk about the health of U.S. manufacturing. It also included a visit with President Donald Trump at the White House, to, as NAM notes, “tell the real story of modern manufacturing and call on the new administration and Congress to adopt solutions to create more jobs, seize global leadership, expand the circle of opportunity and foster innovative workforce-development efforts.”


Speaking at the kickoff in Austin, NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons said manufacturers are adapting and improving every day. Furthermore, they are “changing the conversation to emphasize what modern manufacturing means today: upscaling jobs, upskilling workers and creating pathways for enhancing individual talent, securing futures and increasing wages,” he said, while also noting that manufacturing contributes an estimated $2.17 trillion to the U.S. economy and supports 866,700 jobs in Texas alone.


Speaking at a stop in Detroit, Timmons explained that manufacturing supports nearly 600,000 jobs in Michigan alone; while at a stop in Columbus, Ohio, he pointed out that manufacturing supports nearly 700,000 jobs in Ohio. In Pittsburgh, he said manufacturing supports 568,000 jobs in the state.


In Pittsburgh, Timmons also said modern manufacturing is strong, thanks, in large part, to the domestic energy production happening in southwestern Pennsylvania. Although manufacturing is “changing and evolving,” there are men and women across the country wondering if they have a place in the modern economy, said Timmons. The onus is on manufacturers and the industry as a whole to show them that there will always be a place for people who do the “gratifying physical, hands-on work—the craftsmen and women and the artisans of the manufacturing economy,” he continued. However, manufacturers must show employees they are also part of a more diverse U.S. industrial age—one that has jobs for engineers, robotics technicians, chemists, textile designers, software programmers and other professionals, Timmons said. The industry’s task, he says, is to help people learn these jobs exist and acquire the skills and flexibility that will let them adapt just as the industry does.


“Beyond addressing the skills gap, manufacturing will be even stronger when we improve the U.S. business climate,” Timmons said in Pittsburgh. “The good news is we have a president ready to sign legislation that comes from Congress. For manufacturers, three of our big-ticket items are regulatory reform, infrastructure investment—including energy and technology infrastructure—and tax reform.”


To that point, in Madison, WI, last week after President Trump’s joint address to Congress, Timmons responded, saying that manufacturers are “energized by the President’s proposals.”


“Manufacturers are ready to stand with [Trump] as he pursues $1 trillion of long-overdue investment in infrastructure, or as he declared: a ‘new program of national rebuilding,’” Timmons said in a statement. “Manufacturers are also ready to work with Congress and the administration on comprehensive tax reform, and we look forward to seeing the president’s plan to provide a transformational jolt for manufacturers and our economy.”


What are your thoughts on the state of U.S. manufacturing? Do you agree that there will always be jobs for people doing the “gratifying physical, hands-on work” in manufacturing?