By Kip Eideberg. AEM Senior Vice President of Government and Industry Relations
Let’s face it: 2020 has been an unprecedented and unpredictable year. However, with just about 30 days left until Election Day, we still have time to make it an unforgettable one for those of us who care about the future of our industry. There’s no better time to get started than Manufacturing Day and throughout the month of October. As is the case every year, thousands of companies and educational institutions will celebrate the manufacturing sector while also taking time to inspire and train to the next generation of our workforce.
At the start of the year, the U.S. economy embarked on nine-year trend of economic growth. This was reflected in AEM’s latest economic impact report, which showed that equipment manufacturers now support 2.8 million jobs across all 50 states. Thanks to the enactment of tax reform in 2017, which replaced an outdated system with a more competitive tax code, and the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), which provides manufacturers with the certainty they need to secure the 2.8 million American equipment manufacturing jobs that depend on North American trade, our association’s efforts secure several key policy priorities was paying off.
And many of us had hoped that between the Trump Administration’s decision to de-escalate the protracted trade dispute with China and momentum finally building for passage of a multi-year surface transportation bill, there would be more reasons to be optimistic this year and throughout the coming decade. However, largely due to the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing global economic crisis, not to mention the 2020 presidential election, progress on these critical policy priorities have stalled.
While equipment manufacturers were declared “essential” businesses by the federal government and the majority of governors across the country, which allowed them to keep their doors open and workers on the shop floor, many of our member companies have not escaped the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. For many small and medium-sized equipment manufacturers, suppliers, and distributors, that impact has been severe. Especially on the men and women who manufacture the equipment that builds, feeds, and powers our country. A recent AEM survey of member company executives illustrate how the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on the industry’s workforce. More than one-third of respondents said they had furloughed up to half of their employees, while roughly one in five of respondents indicated that they had laid off as many as 10 percent of their workforce.
While AEM’s advocacy efforts successfully secured relief through several relief packages, including the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and the Main Street Lending Program (MSLP), the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact our member company and the U.S. economy.
The good news, however, is that the upcoming election affords us the opportunity to help put our industry back on track. We need to take the time to learn about the pro-manufacturing policies that are critical to the long-term growth and prosperity of our industry, and hold candidates of all political stripes accountable.
Take workforce development, for example. Research shows in the next decade 2.4 million manufacturing jobs will go unfilled due to a shortage of skilled workers. To meet the current and future workforce needs, we must ensure that federal policies encourage young men and women to get the training they need to pursue careers in manufacturing. And to do that, we need our elected officials to make this a top priority.
While our industry clearly understands the need to address this issue, it also hasn’t gone unnoticed by U.S. voters. Recent polling conducted by the Morning Consult shows eight out of 10 (79 percent) of registered voters say candidates running on a pro-manufacturing platform need to spell out how they plan to help train the 21st century workforce.
Of course, workforce development is not the only policy priority for our industry. We need our elected officials to champion pro-manufacturing policies across the board – eliminating tariffs imposed on manufacturing inputs and opening up more markets to trade, modernizing and rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure, and supporting our nation’s farmers and ranchers.
Educating and equipping the 2.8 million men and women of our industry ahead of Election Day continues to be the mission of Equipped to Vote, AEM’s first-ever get-out-the-vote initiative. The national campaign has already secured commitments from more than 1,500 voters to support pro-manufacturing candidates this election. And with a month to go until Election Day, there is still time for you to join us.
With your help, we can turn this election year into an unforgettable one for our industry.
Subscribe to the AEM Industry Advisor for more perspectives from AEM staff.