About 250 manufacturers from across the country are meeting this week in Washington, D.C., amid rising anxiety about their current challenges, and about how November’s elections might add to them instead of meet them.
They’re members of the National Association of Manufacturers. In a just-released quarterly survey, 78% of the group’s members cited supply-chain disruptions as their biggest business challenge, with only 11% believing improvement will come by the end of the year. Attracting and retaining a quality workforce, and increased raw-materials costs, were not far behind as manufacturers’ biggest challenges, each with 76%.
At the same time, the NAM members were rallying around a list of priorities for the nation’s politicians that the group calls “Competing to Win,” a comprehensive blueprint proffering immediate solutions for bolstering manufacturers’ competitiveness. Beyond solving their immediate challenges, the members are calling mainly for policies that advance their interests against more regulations, higher taxes, distant supply chains and broken-down immigration rules.
“Going into this election, this is really a roadmap to help Republicans and Democrats who seem to be clamoring to associate themselves with manufacturing, at least rhetorically,” Jay Timmons, president and CEO of NAM, told Chief Executive. “This gives them something to sink their teeth into substantively if they want to help U.S. manufacturing.”
American manufacturers could use more help right now than they have in some time. After a Trump administration that was largely friendly to American manufacturers in areas such as regulation and taxation, challenges such as Covid, Biden-administration policies, supply-chain snarls and the economic slowdown have combined to dim their light significantly.
“The biggest immediate issues identified by our members are in a vicious circle and feeding each other,” Timmons said. “Our agenda has some recommendations for dealing with them.”
For example, he said, “for the inflation component, you see some recommendations for reducing the cost of energy, which is a huge input for manufacturers, who use 30% of the nation’s energy.” Among other things, Competing to Win would like to see “remov[ing] regulatory barriers that slow access” to domestic energy supplies and “repair [of] the broken permitting process for energy and resources project to minimize delays and reduce litigation.” NAM’s energy agenda also calls for “support[ing] domestic critical mineral extraction, processing and global supply-chain diversification.”
On immigration, Competing to Win seeks access to domestic production and overseas markets so that energy, minerals, natural resources and technologies are developed here and also marketed around the world.”
NAM’s agenda also calls for “immigration and other workforce solutions that will help deal with the workforce crisis,” Timmons said. “We want to push on that pretty heavily as well.” Competing to Win calls for, among other things, “fund[ing] border security through personnel, infrastructure, technology and enforcement via consistent appropriations” and “increas[ing] employment-based immigration as a percentage of overall new legal permanent residents in the U.S.”
In acknowledgement of the crisis at the nation’s southern border, the NAM agenda also would like to see “fix[ing] the problem of the unauthorized population with a realistic and compassionate solution that leads to a firm reset so that these challenges are not repeated year after year.”
Three out of four NAM members “still have a positive outlook for their business, but optimism has certainly declined,” Timmons said in a NAM press release. “The majority of respondents are expecting recession this year or next, and it’s clear the challenging environment is taking its toll.”