Posts Tagged ‘jobs’

North Dakota Focuses on Accelerating Growth of Emerging Companies

Wednesday, May 24th, 2017

The last week of April, I visited the Fargo, North Dakota region as the guest of the North Dakota Department of Commerce’s Economic Development & Finance Division, which is charged with coordinating the state’s economic development resources to attract, retain and expand wealth. My host was Paul Lucy, former director of the Economic Development & Finance Division, and we visited several companies and met with heads of organizations working to accelerate the growth of emerging companies and retain successful existing companies.

For many people, the only impression they have of Fargo is based on the movie and subsequent TV series of the same name. I never saw the movie and haven’t watched the TV series, but have a cousin in Fargo who is always bragging about what is happening, especially what celerity is coming to perform. I learned that the Red River is the boundary between North Dakota and Minnesota, and about 230,000 people live in the greater Fargo/Moorhead region. It has one private and two public four-year universities, along with several community, technical, and business schools. With nearly 30,000 college students, it is a college town that rivals any in the nation.

As we began our first day of appointments, Paul said, “There are development projects in motion that have  a vision of making downtown Fargo a more vibrant place to live and work, which could lessen urban sprawl and result in more efficient investment in city infrastructure and services. An added bonus would be the preservation of more of North Dakota’s fertile farmland for agriculture production.”

Our first appointment was a breakfast meeting at Emerging Prairie, a co-working space in downtown Fargo. We met with Greg Tehven, Executive Director of Emerging Prairie. He said he grew up on a farm and is a 5th generation North Dakotan. When he was attending the University of Minnesota, he remembers that one of his professors recommended that North Dakota be turned back to the prairie because from 1930 – 2000 there was a “brain drain,” when the best and brightest left the state.

Greg said, “I never intended to go back to North Dakota when I graduated, but while I was an undergrad at the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota in 2003, I co-founded Students Today, Leaders Forever. After graduating, I joined the Kilbourne Group and worked on a variety of projects to stimulate growth and entrepreneurship in downtown Fargo.

He explained, “I burned out and worked my way around the world in 2010. I had a Rotary Ambassador scholarship and got accepted to the University of Manchester to study social change in 2011. I had a year before I started school, so I worked for Doug Burgum for a year and discovered “urbanism.” When I gave a TEDx Talk in Minneapolis, I made a conscious choice that instead of studying social change, I wanted to practice social change.”

He said, “Three of my friends and I founded Emerging Prairie in 2013 to turn Fargo into a vibrant startup community. Our mission is to connect and celebrate the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Fargo-Moorhead. We do so by operating a wide variety of events and initiatives, such as the Drone Focus Monthly, the Prairie Den co-working and event space Hackathon, Meetup groups, and the Intern Experience. We have TEDx Fargo, an independently organized TED event, and 1 Million Cups Fargo, the largest and most active 1 Million Cups program in the country.

We support tech-based entrepreneurs. We are not very involved with manufacturing – most of our entrepreneurs are in software. We provide entrepreneurs: (1) a founders-only retreat (2) a platform to share their work and investment opportunities, and (3) access to consultants. I believe in transfer of information, but not a formal mentor relationship. We have to make it a “cool” climate for college students. We host midnight brunches and do a lot of weird and strange things. We have 144 members of our co-working space, modeled like a student union. We have no desire to maximize profits, but to maximize impact. Millennials are wired to maximize impact rather than maximize profits.”

He expanded, “We host the Ted Ex Fargo and will have about 2,000 people at the event this summer where the CEO of the Kauffman Foundation will speak. We host an Ecommerce conference in Moorhead. We support the drone industry and run a drone conference that started two years ago with 240 attendees the first year and 330 the second year. We expect about 600 people this year on May 31st. We host different other events and also operate an online publication that highlights the regions entrepreneurs and innovators that are turning Fargo into a flourishing tech hub. In 2016, we became a 501(c) 3 non-profit.”

Our next visit put what Greg has said into perspective. We visited the Greater Fargo Moorhead Economic Development Corporation (GFMEDC) where we met with James Gartin, President, Mark Vaux, Executive V.P, Business Development, and Lisa Gulland Nelson, V. P., Marketing and Public Relations. Mr. Gartin said, “Our goal is to be a key catalyst for business growth and prosperity for the region. As far back as five years ago, we felt that we had a difficult situation because of our workforce and ability to attract new companies with our extremely low unemployment rate that is currently3.4%. Every time we get a RFQ, the first thing we get asked is:  Do you have enough employees? We made a commitment early on that we weren’t going to take away employees from our existing employers. While we still work to attract companies to our region, we realized that if we need to work with our two universities to change the philosophy from ‘research for papers’ to ‘research for commercialization’ to facilitate start-up companies.”

He explained, “We have funded Emerging Prairie since its inception and are helping them to support entrepreneurism. We attend and support 1 Million Cups, where the entrepreneurial community meets with K-12 superintendants, organizes manufacturing tours for high schoolers, and recruits companies to our community.

He added, “Governor Doug Burgum’s son, Joe Burgum, is committed to making Fargo the best place on earth to live. He founded Folkways that is a community-building collective dedicated to supporting the region’s culture creators. He created the Red River Market,  successfully lobbied to bring the ride-sharing service Uber to North Dakota, and puts on a course to help entrepreneurs launch local businesses.”

He said, “At North Dakota State University’s Research and Technology Park, there is great collaboration to make it a leader in developing Intellectual Property. Entrepreneur magazine ranked Fargo in the top 10 for entrepreneurism. We have a number of ‘0-60’ speed companies in operation, and a lot more that are on the cusp. The most important thing is that our senior leaders are seeing a difference in the growth of business. We modeled our approach after Brad Feld’s book, Startup Communities: Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Your City, based on Boulder, Colorado. The start-up phase is ten years, and we are only 4-5 years into the program. Cities can’t push entrepreneurism. You can’t make people start companies, but you can help to build the ecosystem.”

The supplemental material I was provided revealed that the costs of doing business in North Dakota are around 15 percent less than the national average because of the following:

* Research and development tax credits

* Corporate income tax exemption

* Property tax exemptions for new or improved buildings

* No personal property or gross receipts taxes

* No sales tax on eligible services, manufacturing or computer/ telecommunications equipment

* Seed and angel capital investment tax credits

* Early-stage financing resources

* State-sponsored workforce training grants

The GFMEDC website states, “Some of our largest employers include divisional, regional, national and global headquarters & facilities for Microsoft Business Solutions, Bobcat Co., John Deere Electronic Solutions, Border States Electric Supply, RDO Equipment Co., Tech Mahindra, Titan Machinery, Nokia HERE and American Crystal Sugar.” The Microsoft campus came about when Great Plains Software, Inc. was acquired in 2001. There doesn’t seem to be a dominant manufacturing industry in Fargo, as the list of top manufacturers includes farm and construction equipment, power equipment, windows/doors, metal fabrication, steel, and composites.

We also discussed the challenges of solving the skills gap and attracting the next generation of manufacturing workers. Mr. Gartin said, “Tip Strategies out of Austin, TX did an economic development strategy study for us on how to grow economy and our workforce. We have funded the plan and are implementing it. We have some of the most unique workforce strategies in the country. Industry and education mesh. We have a very robust manufacturing Day that we handle. We have funded a Maker Space in Moorhead and helped NDSU create a Maker Space, job shadowing and internships. We have a Tri-College University consortium. Students can take classes and get credit at any of the colleges and pay the same rate. Last year, the two-year technical schools collaborated so that students can take classes at any one for the same rate.”

Tri-College University is a unique consortium that allows students enrolled at any one of its five member institutions to take courses at the others at no extra charge, and to apply the credits toward graduation requirements at the home campus. The five member colleges are:

  • Concordia College – Moorhead
  • Minnesota State University Moorhead
  • North Dakota State University – Fargo
  • Minnesota State Community & Technical College – Moorhead
  • North Dakota State College of Science – Wahpeton & Fargo

When I mentioned The Playbook for Teens program I have written about that mentors middle school girls to get them interested in STEM careers, he said, “We think it needs to start in elementary school in the second or third grade when students are starting to learn math. At NDSU, there is an Engineers in the Classroom program where engineering students work in classrooms to teach math. They matched first and second graders with an engineering student to work with them on project based learning. It was tested in an 8-week program, and every student jumped up two levels. This year, there is an engineering student in every classroom, and the students are about to be tested. This could be the opportunity to show that this works, so that we can apply for a Pew grant to fund the program.”

Mark Vaux said, “Our business development program is based on attraction, business retention, and expansion. We visit at least 150 companies on an annual basis looking for opportunities and challenges, so we can help them through the challenges and barriers to growth and recommend actions to take. If companies are buying new equipment or adding workers, there are state programs that will help them.”

Lisa Gulland Nelson described some of the Workforce programs they have:

  • Operation Intern – primary sector business are eligible for matching funds of up to $30,000 per legislative biennium or $3,000 per intern for hiring North Dakota college students or high school juniors or seniors.
  • New Jobs Training Program – matching grants to assist qualified North Dakota employers in training or upgrading their employees’ skills.

Overall, I was impressed with North Dakota’s policies to provide a favorable business climate for its businesses and wish that California would adopt some of these same policies. The Fargo region is smart to focus on emerging businesses to retain their college graduates and keep them from going to other states for jobs. My next article will cover the incubator at the NDSU Research & Technology Park.

Workshops for Warriors Aims to go National

Tuesday, January 10th, 2017

On December 9, 2016, I revisited Workshops for Warriors to find out what had been accomplished in the past four years since I had toured the facility during their first Manufacturing Day on October 5, 2012 and met retired naval officer Hernán Luis y Prado, founder and president of Workshops for Warriors (WFW).

The article  I wrote in 2012 described how Hernán and his wife had self-financed the training they began providing in their own garage while Hernán was still in the service and how they moved into their first small building in 2011. Their first outside funding came from Goodrich Aerostructures, in Chula Vista, California, and they moved into a building twice the size in October 2011. Over the years, Goodrich Aerostructures has donated nearly $1 million in equipment and materials to help WFW build out its class offerings.

Hernán spent over an hour with me on this visit and told me that in January 2016, WFW became approved as a licensed school in California and is the only accredited school training veterans in the manufacturing skills of machining and welding. He said, “Workshops for Warriors (WFW) is a Board-governed 501 (c) 3 nonprofit organization that provides quality hands-on training, accredited STEM educational programs, and opportunities to earn third party nationally recognized credentials to enable Veterans, Wounded Warriors, and Transitioning Service Members to be successfully trained and placed in their chosen advanced manufacturing career field. Through the generosity of private and corporate donations, WFW is able to provide training at no cost to the Veterans, so that they can focus on school and not survival.”

The WFW website states that they address two challenges: “The need for lifelong employment among Veterans transitioning from the service, and the limited pipeline of skilled workers in the advanced manufacturing industry. According to a 2015 Ford Foundation report, more than 2.3 million advanced manufacturing jobs in the United States are unfilled due to lack of skilled labor.” Their current 10,000 square feet building has 11 CNC machines, 18 welding booths, capable of handling 120 graduates per year. Their goal is to have 45,000 square feet with 40 CNC machines and 40 welding booths, capable of handling 450+ graduates per year.

I asked if their curriculum has expanded since 2012, and he said that WFW teaches:

  • Computer-Aided Design
  • Computer-Aided Manufacturing
  • Machinery Repair and Maintenance
  • CNC and manual Machining and Turning
  • Welding and Fabrication

He said that students are now able to earn nationally recognized portable credentials from The American Welding Society (AWS), the National Institute for Metalworking Skills (NIMS), Mastercam University,

SolidWorks, Immerse2Learn, and the National Coalition of Certification Centers (NC3).

According to the website, Workshops for Warriors graduates are now employed by such companies as:  BAE Systems, Barrett, Benchmade, Cubic Corporation, Fox Fury Lighting Solutions, Gates Underwater Products, Gehring, General Dynamics NASSCO, Rogue Fitness, SpaceX, SPAWAR, and UTC Aerospace Systems.

Hernán said, “Workshops for Warriors is already making significant, lasting improvements, and we are building a better, stronger future for veterans, their families, and the U.S. economy by:

  • Reducing unemployment for veterans.
  • Meeting U.S. market demand for more trained, certified manufacturing workers.
  • Enhancing economic stability in the San Diego region.
  • Supporting growth of the U.S. manufacturing sector.
  • Helping more veterans successfully transition to civilian life—with hope and a renewed purpose through a secure civilian career path.”

When I asked what his biggest challenge is, he said reliable funding is number one because:

  • Students cannot use GI bill benefits
  • Classes are free to Veterans
  • Facility costs are $200,000 per month
  • Average cost per student per semester is $20,268
  • With a needs based living stipend provided, student cost per semester is $30,268

He said it is a five step process to receive Federal funding, and they are in the middle of step 4 (Operate as a licensed school for 2 years and pass BPPE audit). They hope to be able to accept Federal funding by April 2019.

I asked how they are funded now, and he responded, “We keep costs and overhead low so that 83% of our donations go straight to training veterans. We have machinery donated or on loan to us. We receive donated or discounted materials (computers, software, metals, tools), and we have time donated by some of our instructors and staff. We collaborate with other nonprofits, and we receive private donations from manufacturing industry leaders and foundations, as well as individual financial donations. We have seven members on our Board of Directors and twenty-seven on our Board of Advisors.”

The list of donors and sponsors has grown to such a long list of companies and organizations that I would not do justice to all of the partners to provide only a partial list. It would take up a whole page to list just the companies and organizations that have donated over $10,000 since 2014.

I asked Hernán what his plans for expansion are, and he said, “Workshops for Warriors is a nationally viable advanced manufacturing training pipeline that is ready to be scaled and replicated across America. Once the GI Bill is accepted at WFW, we will be self-sustaining and ready for expansion.” He added, “WFW has proven metrics and data for investors since 2011. We have audited financials since 2012 that are available on our website.”

Hernán introduced me to some of their new staff:  Amanda DiSilvestro, Marketing Manager, and John Jones, the new Director of Development. Hernán said, “John served with me in Iraq, and when I saw him years later in a wheel chair and learned that he lost both legs after I had returned home from Iraq, John was one of the reasons that I started Workshops for Warriors. We are honored to have him on our team.”

John said, “I had to retire from military service due to the injuries that I sustained during my second deployment. I worked in the nonprofit arena for ten years, ranging from Major Gifts Officer, Executive Director, and National Spokesperson for various military charities.  I wanted to work with an organization that had a more direct impact on the lives of veterans and chose to join Workshops for Warriors.”

John explained that they have begun a two year Capital Campaign to raise $21 million to expand nationally. He said, “We have raised 18% of our goal. Phase 1 of building our first of three buildings is scheduled to be completed by fall 2017. Our current San Diego headquarters will become a Train-the-Trainer and Veteran Incubator facility. Our plan is to create 103 WFW facilities across the USA located in areas with high military transition populations and advanced manufacturing training nodes. Our formal Capital Campaign will be launched at a special gala on April 20th on the U.S.S. Midway.”

He said, “Our program is called Rebuilding America’s Advanced Manufacturing Force. The purpose is to eliminate Veteran unemployment and underemployment, replenish the lack of talent pipeline for the manufacturing industry, and make a social and economic impact (individual to family to community to the Nation.)”

The national program will include:

  • Train-the-Trainer Blueprint
  • Sustainable Model Development
  • Strategic Partnership for National Footprint
  • Tuition/Scholarships
  • Staff & Top-Tier Teachers
  • Job Counseling & Placement
  • Land acquisition
  • Equipment, furniture & fixtures
  • New and renovated construction

Hernán told me that they have several short testimonials on their website from some of their graduates, but he showed me a video by Scott Leoncini and his wife about the impact on their family from graduating from WFW and becoming an instructor, which can be viewed here.

Before I left, I was invited to attend their Fall Graduation Ceremony event for machinists and welders the next week on Friday, December 16, 2016, which I did.

At the ceremony, Hernán said that they had 36 Veterans, Wounded Warriors, and Transitioning Service Members graduate from with nationally recognized credentials from the above-mentioned organizations. Each of the graduates was introduced as they came forward to receive their certificates. After this ceremony, Workshops for Warriors has now trained 338 with a combined 1,400 credentials. A video of the graduation ceremony is available here.

At the graduation ceremony, Summer Jamison, Market Director Executive Director of J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., announced that they were donating $75,000 to WFW toward their Capital Campaign.

Also, Tiffany Rau, Public and Government Relations Manager, Southern California, presented Workshops for Warriors with a $40,000 grant from the Tesoro Foundation at the graduation ceremony. The funds will be used to help the school purchase a new Haas Automation Computer Numeric Controlled (CNC) Mill VF-2, a piece of equipment that supports hands-on learning of CNC machining.

The featured speaker at the ceremony was Ira E Friedman, Education Manager, Precision Tools, for The L.S. Starrett Company, a long-time sponsor and donor to WFW. I was so inspired by his speech that I requested a written transcription and feel compelled to quote a few excerpts. Mr. Friedman said, “Suffice it to say that you will be honored all the days of your life for your service. This investment that you have made in yourselves at Workshop for Warriors will change your lives and the lives of your families and friends forever. I would like to ask you all one question today. What contributions will you make to humanity and how will you help to change this world as a result of your experiences at Workshops for Warriors? To reach your full potential, you will need to have good friends, mentors and especially teachers. This select group of people will prove to be your gyroscopes, your guidance system and when you look back over your shoulder, your life’s treasures!”

After giving good advice about being a mentor, a friend, and contributing member of society, he shared his personal story of how his elementary school teacher mentored him and changed his life. He was nearsighted, had a lisp, and was severely behind in reading and writing. Instead of having to write a story about a canoe, his teacher instructed him and helped him build a 1/4 model of a canoe as his assignment. When it was a success, he realized that he wasn’t “dumb” after all. His teacher helped him get his eyes tested to get glasses and therapy to eliminate his lisp. He went on to being successful in Junior High and High School, even captaining the Wrestling Team. He went on to college and was one of 28 students selected for a full ride to Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute.

In conclusion, he said, “Mr. Jenkins saved my life! This one individual invested in me and was the catalytic ingredient to my success in life. I have gone on to become a productive member of society, (married my childhood sweetheart 50 years ago) and most of all started to give back the precious gift that was given to me so many years ago, that of becoming a Mentor and Teacher. As I fade into the twilight of my career in Metrology some 64 years later, I owe the magic ingredient to Mr. Jenkins.

You see I had the fuel within me all along, he found the spark to ignite it. Finally, I will charge you all today with this one request. Whether you become business owners, NASCAR builders or a Metrology nerd like me; Teach Someone, Mentor Someone-Anyone. Do what Hernán and Workshops for Warriors has done for you and what Mr. Jenkins did for me – change the world!”

 

You can help change the world by donating to the Workshops for Warriors Capital Campaign.

Why Should the U. S. Have a Specific Productivity Policy?

Wednesday, July 27th, 2016

This question is answered by  Robert D. Atkinson, President of the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation (ITIF) in Part II of the  report, “Think Like an Enterprise: Why Nations Need Comprehensive Productivity Strategies.” He states, “Rather than think of an economy as a large market with self-interested actors transacting on the basis of price and seeking to maximize productivity, it is more accurate to conceive of an economy as a large, integrated enterprise that requires coordination of activities that individual enterprises will not effectively undertake on their own.”

 

His opinion is contradictory to that of most Anglo-Saxon nation economists, whose policies are based on two major competing doctrines vying for influence: “neoclassical and neo-Keynesian economics, neither of which supports a national productivity policy.” In a nutshell, he states, “the neoclassical economic doctrine is focused on limiting government’s role in the economy, even as neo-Keynesians see the government’s main role as managing the business cycle and supporting a fairer distribution of income.” His definitions were so simple that even non-economists like me could understand them:

Neoclassical ? focuses on the “managing scarce resources in such a way that maximizes the net benefit from their use, and that produces the quantity and mix of goods and services most beneficial to society.”

Neo-Keynesian ? is “grounded in the core belief that demand for goods and services from business investment, government spending, and consumer spending drives growth.”

Atkinson particularly criticizes neoclassical economists because they “do not study how societies create new forms of production, products, and business models to expand productivity; rather, they study markets to see how commodities are exchanged.”

He criticizes neo-Keynesian economic policy prescriptions because they “revolve around increasing government spending to keep the economy at full employment and ensuring economic fairness and redistribution, because…their goal is not productivity growth, it is full employment.”

Atkinson states. “Thus, the first step for any policymaker seeking to maximize the economy’s productivity is to reject the conventional neoclassical and neo-Keynesian economic advice and embrace an alternative economic doctrine grounded in an understanding of the economy as an integrated, complex enterprise.”

He adds, “This approach is grounded in understanding that productivity is less about markets and more about organizations and systems, in particular about how technology is developed and deployed to drive productivity.”

Atkinson concludes, “Few conventional economists bother to “look inside the black box” of actual organizations or industries and crossindustry systems. Yet it is there that the keys to raising productivity and the keys to the right productivity policy will be found.” He comments that “conventional economics is of little help in understanding the sources of productivity growth, much less in providing useful or actionable advice on productivity policy.”

The rest of Part II discusses how “public goods, externalities and other enterprise failures, and system interdependencies for development and adoption of productivity-enhancing tools all mean that markets alone will not maximize productivity.”

Public goods are “a good or service provided without profit to all members of a society—to increase their productivity.” Some examples are transportation infrastructure such as roads, highways, bridges, airports, seaports or the education infrastructure for K–12 and higher education. Atkinson comments,”… though public goods are necessary, they are not sufficient.”

Atkinson comments that rather than maximizing productivity companies “can maximize profits from increasing revenues or reducing costs. Many companies focus less on boosting productivity and more on increasing revenues, either by getting more customers or increasing revenue per customer by selling products or services with higher margins.”

What he does not cover is that the best way for companies to boost productivity is to transform themselves into lean companies through the adoption and implementation of lean principles, tools, and strategies.

In addition, “some industries do not have strong incentives for driving productivity because “productivity increases hurt its implementers…In such industries, workers ‘control the means of Production’ and therefore productivity is a direct threat to their jobs.”

I found his brief discussion on the effect of system interdependencies on productivity interesting in how he shows that there is a relationship between product innovation and “interdependencies that are only observable and actionable at the industry or economy level.” For example, “when Apple developed the iPod, it needed customers with broadband Internet access and it needed music to be available for purchase online. Without either, the iPod would have gone the way of the Newton (an earlier, failed Apple attempt at creating a PDA).”

Market failure can stem “from markets tending to be poor at coordinating action when multiple parties need to act together synergistically and simultaneously. These chicken-or egg challenges must be overcome for productivity-enhancing innovation to occur in many technology platforms…Unless government plays a facilitating role, relying on markets alone can mean significantly delayed implementation.”

Atkinson identifies another challenge:  “Many technology solutions require mutual adoption and coordination for them to be effectively deployed… For example, when automobiles were first developed few paved roads had been built. Only after a certain number of autos were sold was demand strong enough that the government needed to build roads. But initially cars could be driven on dirt roads that horses used, so adoption could grow gradually in the absence of government construction

In Part III, Atkins lays out a comprehensive and actionable agenda for spurring productivity growth, which can be used as a guide to tailor national productivity policy policies. This agenda includes policy recommendations…and the ways in which governments need to organize themselves to advance effective productivity policies.”

He states, “The conventional theory holds that the only thing government can do is to remove barriers and fix policy failures so that firms reacting to price signals can do whatever they may choose to drive productivity. This overly passive framework ignores the complexity and enterprise-like nature of economies, which actually require more strategic productivity policies.” He recommends that an “effective productivity policy needs to go beyond the standard limits to embrace four other key components:”

  1. Incentives, including tax policies, to encourage organizations to adopt more and newer “tools” to drive productivity…In particular, governments should use the tax code to provide incentives for acquisition of new capital equipment
  2. .Policies to spur the advance and take-up of systemic, platform technologies that accelerate productivity across industries. Many of the information technologies central to driving future productivity have chicken-or-egg network effects which mean that adoption will lag unless governments adopt smart, technology-specific policies.
  3. A research and development strategy focused on spurring the development of productivity-enabling technologies, such as robotics…Governments need to focus a much larger share of their R&D budgets on advancing technologies that will reduce the need for labor.
  4. Sectoral productivity policies that reflect the unique differences between industries. In terms of productivity and productivity policy, industries differ in significant ways…Any effective national productivity policy will need to be grounded in analysis-based, sector-based productivity strategies.

Within these four policy components, Atkinson makes some recommendations that are more controversial, such as:

Roll back policies favoring small business – “special benefits to small business and discriminatory policies that place tax and regulatory burdens only on large businesses. He recommends, “To boost productivity, governments should embrace firm-size agnosticism in all policies.” (pages 70-73)

Replace the term informal with the accurate term the illegal economy – “individuals are breaking the law by not registering their businesses and paying taxes. Informality is a drag on productivity growth, not a progressive force.” (pages 73-74)

Set a reasonable set minimum wage indexed to inflation – this helps make it more economical for organizations to substitute capital for labor” and “in some sectors may expedite the adoption of automated equipment and new technology to increase labor productivity.” (page 81)

Atkinson warns, “Countries that protect entrenched, incumbent, or politically favored industries from market-based competition only damage their own country’s productivity and economic growth potential… This limits the ability of firms at the productivity frontier to take market share away from firms with lower productivity.”

Atkinson acknowledges that “The challenge is that few governments have designed their scientific research programs explicitly around advancing technologies to drive productivity. Instead, they follow the advice of neoclassical economists that governments should not pick particular technology areas and should focus on curiosity-directed basic science… if economies are to maximize productivity growth, they need to craft technology research agendas specifically around productivity.”

In fact, Atkinson recommends that “Governments need to focus on identifying and funding many more research and engineering projects that are specifically targeted to developing Technology that can replace human labor.”

He explains, “Productivity policy cannot be fully effective unless it is grounded in a sophisticated understanding that industries differ significantly with regard to their productivity dynamics… Three key factors differentiate industries when it comes to considering productivity policy.” They are

  • Scale ? Industries differ in terms of average firm size.
  • Competition ? Industries differ in the extent to which they face competition.
  • Incentives ? The third factor is intensity of incentives for an industry to increase productivity.

This is why Atkinson recommends that “An effective national productivity policy needs to be based on an analysis of individual industries and when appropriate, broader production systems.”

In his conclusion, Atkinson recommends, “The single most important step governments can take to boost productivity is to make higher productivity the principal goal of economic policy, more important than managing the business cycle, defending liberty, or promoting equality.”

He adds, “National governments should also identify or establish one agency or laboratory whose main mission is to support development and adoption of productivity technology as well as of platform and sectoral productivity strategies. In the United States, this might be the National Institute of Standards and Technology.”

Finally, Atkinson states: “Productivity is the key to improving living standards—so policymakers should ignore conventional economists who say there is little government can do about it and instead make it the principal goal of economic policy.”

Even if you do not agree with all of his premises, recommendations, and conclusions, this is an important report that should be widely read and debated for some time to come.

 

 

This question is answered by  Robert D. Atkinson, President of the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation (ITIF) in Part II of the  report, “Think Like an Enterprise: Why Nations Need Comprehensive Productivity Strategies.” He states, “Rather than think of an economy as a large market with self-interested actors transacting on the basis of price and seeking to maximize productivity, it is more accurate to conceive of an economy as a large, integrated enterprise that requires coordination of activities that individual enterprises will not effectively undertake on their own.”

 

His opinion is contradictory to that of most Anglo-Saxon nation economists, whose policies are based on two major competing doctrines vying for influence: “neoclassical and neo-Keynesian economics, neither of which supports a national productivity policy.” In a nutshell, he states, “the neoclassical economic doctrine is focused on limiting government’s role in the economy, even as neo-Keynesians see the government’s main role as managing the business cycle and supporting a fairer distribution of income.” His definitions were so simple that even non-economists like me could understand them:

 

Neoclassical ? focuses on the “managing scarce resources in such a way that maximizes the net benefit from their use, and that produces the quantity and mix of goods and services most beneficial to society.”

 

Neo-Keynesian ? is “grounded in the core belief that demand for goods and services from business investment, government spending, and consumer spending drives growth.”

 

Atkinson particularly criticizes neoclassical economists because they “do not study how societies create new forms of production, products, and business models to expand productivity; rather, they study markets to see how commodities are exchanged.”

 

He criticizes neo-Keynesian economic policy prescriptions because they “revolve around increasing government spending to keep the economy at full employment and ensuring economic fairness and redistribution, because…their goal is not productivity growth, it is full employment.”

 

Atkinson states. “Thus, the first step for any policymaker seeking to maximize the economy’s productivity is to reject the conventional neoclassical and neo-Keynesian economic advice and embrace an alternative economic doctrine grounded in an understanding of the economy as an integrated, complex enterprise.”

 

He adds, “This approach is grounded in understanding that productivity is less about markets and more about organizations and systems, in particular about how technology is developed and deployed to drive productivity.”

 

Atkinson concludes, “Few conventional economists bother to “look inside the black box” of actual organizations or industries and crossindustry systems. Yet it is there that the keys to raising productivity and the keys to the right productivity policy will be found.” He comments that “conventional economics is of little help in understanding the sources of productivity growth, much less in providing useful or actionable advice on productivity policy.”

 

The rest of Part II discusses how “public goods, externalities and other enterprise failures, and system interdependencies for development and adoption of productivity-enhancing tools all mean that markets alone will not maximize productivity.”

 

Public goods are “a good or service provided without profit to all members of a society—to increase their productivity.” Some examples are transportation infrastructure such as roads, highways, bridges, airports, seaports or the education infrastructure for K–12 and higher education. Atkinson comments,”… though public goods are necessary, they are not sufficient.”

 

Atkinson comments that rather than maximizing productivity companies “can maximize profits from increasing revenues or reducing costs. Many companies focus less on boosting productivity and more on increasing revenues, either by getting more customers or increasing revenue per customer by selling products or services with higher margins.”

 

What he does not cover is that the best way for companies to boost productivity is to transform themselves into lean companies through the adoption and implementation of lean principles, tools, and strategies.

 

In addition, “some industries do not have strong incentives for driving productivity because “productivity increases hurt its implementers…In such industries, workers ‘control the means of

Production’ and therefore productivity is a direct threat to their jobs.”

 

I found his brief discussion on the effect of system interdependencies on productivity interesting in how he shows that there is a relationship between product innovation and “interdependencies that are only observable and actionable at the industry or economy level.” For example, “when Apple developed the iPod, it needed customers with broadband Internet access and it needed music to be available for purchase online. Without either, the iPod would have gone the way of the Newton (an earlier, failed Apple attempt at creating a PDA).”

 

Market failure can stem “from markets tending to be poor at coordinating action when multiple parties need to act together synergistically and simultaneously. These chicken-or egg challenges must be overcome for productivity-enhancing innovation to occur in many technology platforms…Unless government plays a facilitating role, relying on markets alone can mean significantly delayed implementation.”

 

Atkinson identifies another challenge:  “Many technology solutions require mutual adoption and coordination for them to be effectively deployed… For example, when automobiles were first developed few paved roads had been built. Only after a certain number of autos were sold was demand strong enough that the government needed to build roads. But initially cars could be driven on dirt roads that horses used, so adoption could grow gradually in the absence of government construction

 

In Part III, Atkins lays out a comprehensive and actionable agenda for spurring productivity growth, which can be used as a guide to tailor national productivity policy policies. This agenda includes policy recommendations…and the ways in which governments need to organize themselves to advance effective productivity policies.”

 

He states, “The conventional theory holds that the only thing government can do is to remove barriers and fix policy failures so that firms reacting to price signals can do whatever they may choose to drive productivity. This overly passive framework ignores the complexity and enterprise-like nature of economies, which actually require more strategic productivity policies.” He recommends that an “effective productivity policy needs to go beyond the standard limits to embrace four other key components:”

 

  1. Incentives, including tax policies, to encourage organizations to adopt more and newer “tools” to drive productivity…In particular, governments should use the tax code to provide incentives for acquisition of new capital equipment.

 

  1. Policies to spur the advance and take-up of systemic, platform technologies that accelerate productivity across industries. Many of the information technologies central to driving future productivity have chicken-or-egg network effects which mean that adoption will lag unless governments adopt smart, technology-specific policies.

 

  1. A research and development strategy focused on spurring the development of productivity-enabling technologies, such as robotics…Governments need to focus a much larger share of their R&D budgets on advancing technologies that will reduce the need for labor.

 

  1. Sectoral productivity policies that reflect the unique differences between industries. In terms of productivity and productivity policy, industries differ in significant ways…Any effective national productivity policy will need to be grounded in analysis-based, sector-based productivity strategies.

 

Within these four policy components, Atkinson makes some recommendations that are more controversial, such as:

 

Roll back policies favoring small business – “special benefits to small business and discriminatory policies that place tax and regulatory burdens only on large businesses. He recommends, “To boost productivity, governments should embrace firm-size agnosticism in all policies.” (pages 70-73)

 

Replace the term informal with the accurate term the illegal economy – “individuals are breaking the law by not registering their businesses and paying taxes. Informality is a drag on productivity growth, not a progressive force.” (pages 73-74)

 

Set a reasonable set minimum wage indexed to inflation – this helps make it more economical for organizations to substitute capital for labor” and “in some sectors may expedite the adoption of automated equipment and new technology to increase labor productivity.” (page 81)

 

Atkinson warns, “Countries that protect entrenched, incumbent, or politically favored industries from market-based competition only damage their own country’s productivity and economic growth potential… This limits the ability of firms at the productivity frontier to take market share away from firms with lower productivity.”

 

Atkinson acknowledges that “The challenge is that few governments have designed their scientific research programs explicitly around advancing technologies to drive productivity. Instead, they follow the advice of neoclassical economists that governments should not pick particular technology

areas and should focus on curiosity-directed basic science… if economies are to maximize productivity growth, they need to craft technology research agendas specifically around productivity.”

 

In fact, Atkinson recommends that “Governments need to focus on identifying and funding many more research and engineering projects that are specifically targeted to developing Technology that can replace human labor.”

 

He explains, “Productivity policy cannot be fully effective unless it is grounded in a sophisticated understanding that industries differ significantly with regard to their productivity dynamics… Three key factors differentiate industries when it comes to considering productivity policy.” They are

 

  • Scale ? Industries differ in terms of average firm size.
  • Competition ? Industries differ in the extent to which they face competition.
  • Incentives ? The third factor is intensity of incentives for an industry to increase productivity.

 

This is why Atkinson recommends that “An effective national productivity policy needs to be based on an analysis of individual industries and when appropriate, broader production systems.”

 

In his conclusion, Atkinson recommends, “The single most important step governments can take to boost productivity is to make higher productivity the principal goal of economic policy, more important than managing the business cycle, defending liberty, or promoting equality.”

 

He adds, “National governments should also identify or establish one agency or laboratory whose main mission is to support development and adoption of productivity technology as well as of platform and sectoral productivity strategies. In the United States, this might be the National Institute of Standards and Technology.”

 

Finally, Atkinson states: “Productivity is the key to improving living standards—so policymakers should ignore conventional economists who say there is little government can do about it and instead make it the principal goal of economic policy.”

 

Even if you do not agree with all of his premises, recommendations, and conclusions, this is an important report that should be widely read and debated for some time to come.

 

 

What is the Heart and Soul of Manufacturing?

Tuesday, March 15th, 2016

Once in awhile you read a book that has such kernels of truth that they touch your soul. One such book is The Heart & Soul of Manufacturing by Bill Waddell that I just finished reading. The subtitle reveals the focus of his book: “How Lean Management aligns with the better angels of our nature to create extraordinary business results.”

I met Bill in 2014 when we were both speakers at the Lean Accounting Summit in Savannah, Georgia and reconnected with him at the summit in Jacksonville, Florida last year. I knew that we connected at a higher level because of his presentations and the topics we cover in our blogs, but reading his latest book confirmed it.

Bill has been a lean guru for more than 30 years, and in his Introduction, he writes this about his journey, “During the time I have grown in my own thinking from seeing lean as an exciting new set of tools to use on the factory floor and in the supply chain, to an all-encompassing business and economic model, to what it truly is: All of the above driven by and centered on a powerful and rare organizational culture.”

My own lean journey has been much shorter ? only 10 years since I attended my first workshop about lean in 2006, but it was preceded by getting my certificate in Total Quality Management in 1993. By the end of the 1990s, I had discerned that TQM failed because it started from the bottom up with “Quality circles” and was not adopted as a philosophy or incorporated into the corporate culture by C-level management.

I began my lean journey with the viewpoint that the adoption and implementation of lean tools and principles would help American companies be more competitive in the global marketplace and play a role in “saving” American manufacturing as expressed in my book published in 2009.

When I read Bill’s book, I resonated with his statement, “The cut throat world of business, and especially manufacturing over the last thirty years, has become centered on the negative: laying off good people in pursuit of lower headcounts, closing plants and moving the work to China, decimating entire small towns across America, and bankrupting small suppliers by abruptly terminating long relationships and replacing them with cheaper foreign sources.” These facts are what motivated me to write my book, Can American Manufacturing be Saved? Why we should and how we can.

The understanding of the importance of the total transformation of the culture of a company was revealed to me when I took classes in 2014 from Luis Socconini of the Lean Six Sigma Institute to acquire my Yellow Belt in Lean Six Sigma and thereafter read his book, Lean Company.

After years of applying the Toyota Production System tools and principles in his consulting, Bill dug deeper into the precepts behind them to understand what enables “Toyota with its nearly perfect track record of providing lifetime employment to its workers ? and making a lot of money at the same time.” One of the five precepts that more Americans need to emulate is “Be contributive to the development and welfare of the country by working together, regardless of position, in faithfully fulfilling our duties.”

Bill realized that there are other people like him “who want to do their jobs well, but also want to treat people well…they want to have a positive impact on the world around them and especially on the people around them.” The purpose of his “book is to send the message to those people that it is possible to do both…it provides a path for good people to combine the crafts of their trade with their moral code, to be good manufacturers because they are good people, rather than feeling they must either be good manufacturers or good people.”

Bill’s book features in depth consideration of companies that are every bit Toyota’s equal in their people-centered culture: ATC Trailers, Barry-Wehmiller, and West Paw Design.

Bill states that a lean culture is more than a “feel good culture;” it must be “a driver for a completely different way of running the business.” It must be based on “servant leadership,” wherein “the servant leader is always asking, ‘How can I help?’ Leadership and management exist to enable the folks on the front lines to better serve customers.”

Bill writes, “Eliminating waste and empowering people intersect beautifully.” But, in the goal to eliminate waste, “The resources that are the most important to eliminate wasting are people’s time and talents.” He adds, “Traditional management sees human beings as little more than unique tools, while lean thinkers see people as the very heart and soul of the organization’s reason for existence.” And, “In a lean company letting a thinking, feeling, growing person go ? laying them off ? is a shameful waste of a resource that is both precious and has enormous economic value.”

Those familiar with lean will understand his emphasis in a subsequent chapter on organizing a company by value streams, which engenders the feeling that “we’re all in this together” in the “shared commitment to the common good.” In a company with a lean culture, “success is defined by how the team performs along the entire end-to-end value stream…Rather than pit people against each other for individual recognition, lean incentivizes people to help each other, and to do whatever they can to make the other folks on the team more capable, to enable them to bring more of their talents to bear on the job.”

In chapter 5, “It’s all about Growth,” he writes, “There is a widespread misconception that lean is a strategy for reducing costs by eliminating waste. Quite to the contrary, lean is an engine for growth. The purpose of waste reduction and ideally elimination is to free up capacity.” When you free up capacity, you can grow, produce more, and make more profits. As Bill writes, “no company has ever cut its way to success…Success can only come from more, and you can’t cut your way to more.”

In chapter 6, “Hard Core Culture,” Bill discusses what is meant by a lean culture in contrast to “the traditional culture of blame, and its companion – arrogance…that causes most companies to fail from the inside out.” While a lean culture eliminates blame to utilize the Deming Cycle of Plan, Do, Check, Act (PDCA), Bill states, “The core concept of respect for people is not just theoretical or philosophical respect based on the belief that we are all children of God and equal in His eyes. It is professional respect, as well…based on the knowledge that no one knows everything about a process or an operation, but everyone involved knows something.”

Chapter 7, “Accounting,” contains Bill’s easy to understand explanation of “the important aspects of lean accounting, and how they support the decisions a principled, faith driven manager…” Lean accounting measures costs “based on cross functional value streams, rather than in each functional silo. It is based on “real money…it largely does away with the various types of cost types typically assigned to them…Standard costs are done away with in lean.”

I became a big proponent of lean accounting after a four-hour module in my Yellow Belt class that was reinforced when I attended sessions at the Lean Accounting summits of 2014 and 2015.

In chapter 8, Bill recounts the horrific story of the Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire that I recounted in my own book, wherein 145 women workers died in a fire because the doors were locked so the women couldn’t get out via the stairs, three of the four elevators weren’t working, and the owners had not installed a sprinkler system. It was the worst industrial incident in American history. It shocked the country and “it set off a series of laws and changes in industrial safety that eventually put an end to sweatshops in the United States.”

Bill then recounts the stories of two equally or more horrific tragedies that occurred in 2012 and 2013 offshore: Tazreen Fashions factory fire in Bangladesh where 117 women died in a fire because of locked doors and no fire prevention system and the Rana Plaza factory building collapse killing more than 1,200 people. He comments, “Since NAFTA was enacted some twenty or more years ago there has been a flurry of global trade agreements that typically pay little more than lip service to moral and ethical issues…These same trade agreements have had the effect of causing American environmental regulations to be something of a sham…great swaths of American manufacturing has moved to places such as China and Vietnam where there has been little or no environmental concern.”

We have actually been outsourcing our pollution to primarily China or Mexico. There is no sky-high fence to keep the air from crossing our border with Mexico, so we are breathing the polluted air being generated by companies in Mexico. In addition, the horrifically polluted air from China is actually coming to the U. S. on the trade winds.

The rest of the chapter 8 is a rather lengthy discussion of the differences between a privately owned vs. a publicly owned company with regard to practicing moral principles in the conduct of business.

Chapter 9 focuses on people, as “lean is a completely people centered business theory… lean management assumes the best and is based on empowerment and trust.” A culture of lean eliminates the conflict between management and labor. He presents examples of the “talent development” aspect of lean and now some companies evaluate people on the basis on their skills and knowledge in a four-square quadrant for both compensation and leadership. He concludes, “The companies with the best people working together on the best teams are the winners, and putting the best people into the best teams is done by principled leaders, not on the basis of accounting parameters.”

Chapter 10 considers “A Few Specifics,” and one of them that flies in the face of modern technology is the elimination of ERP systems as lean companies “see big IT systems as creators of significant levels of non-value adding waste. ERP systems create the need for planners, production schedulers, cost accountants and buyers. They require data collection and entry, as well as supervisors to oversee all of this, along with the costs of the software and hardware itself.” He provides examples of how ATC and West Paw Design use much simpler systems based on kanban (“a Japanese term mean something like ‘display card'”) He explains “Lean companies operate on a demand pull basis, rather than sophisticated forecasting models. Under this approach, they set a minimal inventory level in place and their purchasing and producing simply replenish that which has been used to meet actual customer demand…”

He concludes, “Perhaps the biggest reason lean companies avoid systems such as ERP is their cultural aversion to complexity. Complexity is the enemy of short cycle time, and it is the enemy of continuous improvement.”

The final two chapters contain a plea to take action and start leaning. He states, “You can’t change the basic trajectory of the business unless you change how you manage it…The gut wrenching, radical transformation in the business is not on the shop floor ? it is in the management office.” He states that successful lean leaders don’t come to this enlightened approach to management through logic, “they come to it through their principles…a principled leader is not content with the basic shop floor tools…they delve deeper and deeper into lean to find the zone of the management structures and philosophies need to allow them to manage by their principles and they dive even deeper into the core of lean culture until they fully understand and support the cultural rules need to turn the whole company into one driven by the leader’s strongly held beliefs.” He encourages companies to “learn why a strong culture is the linchpin of Lean success.”

The kernels of truth I briefly highlighted herein are why I recommend this book to everyone who wants to live and work by his higher principles while achieving greater success. If more American companies had the type of lean culture that Bill envisions, we truly could rebuild our manufacturing industry to make America great again and create jobs for millions of out of work Americans.

Boehner and his “Lieutenants” Battle for International Corporate Elite

Tuesday, June 16th, 2015

On Friday, June 12, 2015, the House passed the Trade Promotion Authority. This meant that 191 Republicans and 28 Democrats in the House of Representatives voted to surrender their Constitutional authority on trade and allow President Obama to conclude the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) and other agreements that have been negotiated behind closed doors. The good news is that the House failed to renew the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) portion of H.R. 1314 by a vote of 302 to 126. Since the Senate-passed version of H.R. 1314, contained both the TPA and TAA measures, the House needed to pass both portions of H. R. 1314 for the bill to go to the president’s desk for signature.

Many did not expect the Trade Promotion Authority bill to be voted on if the TAA bill failed, but as soon as it failed, a motion was made to vote on the TPA bill. Then, as soon as the TPA passed, I watched Republican House Speaker John Boehner (OH) make a motion to reconsider the TAA after the House reconvenes on June 15th. The re-vote was expected to take place Tuesday, June 16th, but at a Rules Committee meeting late Monday, June 15th, the House Republican leadership decided to delay the re-vote until July 30th in an attempt to give President Obama and the Republican leadership more time to figure out how to pass the stalled trade package.

If the House and Senate pass bills with different language, then they have to form a House/Senate Conference Committee. That committee negotiates and works out the differences in the two bills, sends the bills to the House and Senate, and if both chambers approve, it then goes to the President for signing.

There was also a third trade-related bill, H.R. 644, the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015. This bill was the first of the three bills that the House voted on, and it passed by a vote of 240 to 190. This bill had to pass because it had all the Paul Ryan goodies promised to Republicans who were wavering in exchange for their TPA support (although the currency manipulation language that was in the Senate-passed bill was stripped out.)

It is likely that deal cutting will be conducted behind the scenes to get Democrats to vote in favor of the TAA. Even though Democrats have consistently supported Trade Adjustment Assistance legislation, Democrat leadership and labor unions were unhappy because the TAA program was to be funded by large Medicare cuts, and it would not provide enough funding to offset the harm of TPA. Other Democrats voted “no” to delay or stop the Trade Promotion Authority bill.

The Republican leadership hates TAA, but was willing to help pass it to get Democratic votes. Important conservative organizations like Heritage Action and Club for Growth opposed TAA but supported TPA. A last minute Boehner/Pelosi deal on TAA prevented the defunding of Medicare to fund TAA, and instead would fund it by direct tax hikes by raising the penalties for misfiled taxes. “A vote for Obamatrade on Tuesday is a vote to give the IRS more power and more incentives to go after small businesses,” said Curtis Ellis, founder of the Obamatrade.com website, brought to you by the American Jobs Alliance, in an exclusive interview with Breitbart News. It seems unlikely that more Republicans will vote for the TAA after the revelation that voting for TAA is technically voting for a tax increase.

What angers me is that the existence of the Trade Adjustment Assistance bill is a tacit admission by both parties that trade bills cause people to lose their jobs so that they need assistance to be retrained for other jobs. What does a person with a good paying manufacturing job get trained to do? Work at Walmart or flip burgers for McDonalds? That is what too many American workers have been forced to do when the company they worked closed their doors due to unfair competition from foreign companies as a result of previous trade agreements concluded in the past 20 years.

There are rumors that if the TAA bill fails again, the Republicans have a “Plan B” and will draft another rule that would bring TPA to the floor on its own without being tied to the TAA legislation. If this is necessary, the Republican House leadership would risk losing the support of some Democrats and some of the Tea Party-supported Representatives that voted “yes.” If a stand-alone Trade Promotion Authority bill does pass, the Senate would have to reconsider and vote on the TPA bill without the TAA portion being included.

If the Trade Promotion Authority is granted to President Obama, future historians may mark this event as the day when our Constitutional representative democracy ended and our country unofficially transformed into an oligarchy, which is defined as “a small group of people having control of a country, organization, or institution.”

In 1995, Republicans concluded a “Contract with America,” while in 2015, Republicans appear to have concluded a contract with the oligarchy composed of the international corporate elite of large, multinational corporations that betray America’s small businesses, farmers, ranchers, and workers. These large, multinational corporations now comprise the majority of the membership of the National Association of Manufacturers and the U. S. Chamber of Commerce. Many are no longer American-owned corporations, having been acquired by corporations from foreign countries.

For seven years, Republicans have accused President Obama of overstepping the power of the Executive Branch of our government, but now they just voted to give him even more power in the name of “free trade.” This is why I heard conservative radio talk show host Mark Levin express his outrage against Republican leadership in the House on his show Thursday evening, June 11th, when he said that these “trade agreements aren’t free trade, they are crony capitalism.”

Tea Party members and supporters can feel good that 54 Republicans voted “no” on granting Trade Promotion Authority, nearly all of whom were Tea Party supported candidates in either the 2010 or 2012 election. These Representatives realized that the TPP would be a threat to our national sovereignty and leads us one step closer to global governance. Only seven Tea Party-supported Representatives changed their mind at the last minute and voted “yes” on the TPA. They were: Rod Blum (IA), Mo Brooks (AL), Trent Franks (AZ), Jody Hice (GA), Matt Salmon (AZ), David Schweikert (AZ), and Martin Stutzman (IN).

It is a pity that conservative groups like the Tea Party, Grassfire, and Numbers USA were so late in joining the opposition to the Trade Promotion Authority. Their opposition earlier in the game could have influenced more of the 65 or so Tea Party-supported Representatives to have the courage to vote “no” on the TPA.

Democrats should be ashamed of the 28 Representatives who voted to turn their backs on America’s small businesses, farmers, ranchers, and workers by approving the TPA. Those voting in favor were: Brad Ashford (NE), Ami Bera (CA), Don Beyer (VA), Earl Blumenauer (OR), Suzanne Bonamici (OR), Gerry Connolly (VA), Jim Cooper (TN), Jim Costa (CA), Henry Cuellar (TX), Susan Davis (CA), John Delaney (MD), Suzan DelBene (WA), Sam Farr (CA), Jim Himes (CT), Ruben Hinojosa (TX), Eddie Bernice Johnson (TX), Derek Kilmer (WA), Ron Kind (WI), Rick Larsen (WA), Gregory Meeks (NY), Beto O’Rourke (TX), Scott Peters (CA), Jared Polis (CO), Mike Quigley (IL), Kathleen Rice (NY), Kurt Schrader (OR), Terri Sewell (AL), and Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL). I don’t know whether any of these Democrats changed their mind at the last minute, but the two Representatives from San Diego, Susan Davis and Scott Peters, were “undecided” up to the day before the vote.

At the beginning of the year, there were 11 Democrat Representatives in southern California that were undecided on the Trade Promotion Authority. Visits to district offices by me and members of the state chapter of the Coalition for a Prosperous America for which I am chair played a role in influencing 9 of the 11 to vote “no” on the TPA. This shows how important work at the district office level is to get our elected Representatives to hear and pay attention to our voices.

Now that the re-vote on the Trade Adjustment Assistance has been delayed for two weeks, there is more time to put pressure on Representatives that voted for the Trade Promotion Authority to influence them to vote against it. I urge you to contact your Representative today and ask them to oppose the Trade Adjustment Assistance bill and a stand-alone Trade Promotion Authority bill. Together we can see that H. R. 1314 succumbs to a well-deserved death!

 

How would the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement affect the Reshoring Trend?

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2015

Reshoring has become a trend, not just anecdotal, as hardly a week goes by without an article about a company returning manufacturing to America in some news outlet. However, the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement is projected to reduce the rate of reshoring and manufacturing jobs being brought back to the U. S. Combined with the high U. S. dollar, the impact is likely to be severe.

Utilization of the Total Cost of Ownership worksheet estimator developed by Harry Moser, founder of the Reshoring Initiative, has provided a method for companies to do a true analysis to be able to see that they may not be saving as much, if any, of the money anticipated by sourcing offshore because the cost savings are often outweighed by the hidden costs of doing business offshore.

Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) is “the sum of all the costs associated with every activity of the supply stream,” according to the 13th edition APICS dictionary.” However, most companies don’t look beyond quoted unit price to make decision of where to source and ignore 20% or more of the total cost of offshored products. According to the Archstone Consulting survey reported in the American Machinist Magazine July 16, 2009, 60% of manufacturers apply only “rudimentary” total cost models: Wage Arbitrage, PPV (Purchase Price Variance), and Landed Cost.

This is because in the cost accounting systems used by most corporations, transportation costs, travel costs to vendors, rework costs of defective parts, cost of inventory, etc. are in separate accounting categories. This is why it is critical that CFOs and Supply Chain managers be trained in how to use the TCO worksheet to increase reshoring. Harry Moser’s TCO worksheet is able to quantify many of the following hidden costs of sourcing offshore that are not captured by any other current method:

  • Currency fluctuations
  • Cost of managing offshore contract
  • Design changes
  • Quality problems
  • Legal liabilities
  • Travel expenses
  • Time and effort to make transition
  • Poor communication
  • Intellectual Property infringement
  • Cost of inventory

The reshoring trend has also benefited by the following changing supply chain dynamics in offshore sourcing that have occurred since 2007:

  • Oil prices tripled, raising logistics costs
  • Labor rates in China rose by 300%
  • Component/material prices increased
  • Automation increased U.S. productivity
  • Political instability in China – Labor riots/strikes
  • Exchange rate variables
  • Risk of disruption from natural disasters

This is why the Boston Consulting Group issued a press release May 5, 2011, stating, “We expect net labor costs for manufacturing in China and the U.S. to converge by around 2015… since wage rates account for 20 to 30 percent of a product’s total cost, manufacturing in China will be only 10 to 15 percent cheaper than in the U.S.” This prediction was very controversial at the time and generated a great deal of debate.

On October 11, 2011, the Boston Consulting Group issued a report, stating, “Seven industry sectors had reached “tipping point” of returning to U.S.” They are:

  • Appliances and electrical equipment
  • Computer/electronics
  • Fabricated metal products
  • Electrical equipment/appliances
  • Furniture
  • Machinery
  • Plastics and rubber products
  • Transportation goods

Note: These sectors account for 70% of U.S. imports and 2 trillion in U.S. consumption

Because robotics, automation, lean manufacturing, and the rapidly improving technology of additive manufacturing have helped companies do more with fewer people, many have been skeptical that reshoring would create many jobs. The Boston Consulting Group’s predictions of which industry sectors would return to the U. S. first are now verified by data that the Reshoring Initiative has captured since its founding in 2010. This data also provides the answer to the question of how many jobs have been created by reshoring.

The following chart shows the number of jobs created by reshoring:

Industry

Jobs Companies
Transportation Equipment 13,823 33
Electrical Equipment, Appliances, Components 9,240 58
Computer/Electronic Products 3,483 25
Machinery 2,860 20
Apparel/Textiles 2,154 46
Fabricated Metal Products 1,721 39
Food 1,628 9
Wood Products 1,028 18
Medical Equipment    738 17
Hobbies    723 29
Construction    577 4
Plastic/Rubber Products    470 16
Castings      57 8
Non-Metallic Mineral Products      12 1
Primary Metal Products        0 5
Chemicals & Energy        0 1 each
Other 1,016 24

The Reshoring Initiative has also captured reshoring data by state. You will be surprised by some of the states that made it in the top ten because the Boston Consulting Group predicted that reshoring would mainly occur in the low wage states of the south. The data for the top ten states is shown on the chart below.

State

Jobs

Cases Jobs/Facility
South Carolina 7,530 8 941
Texas 3,792 13 292
Kentucky 3,412 4 853
Georgia 3,145 8 393
Tennessee 3,137 15 209
Ohio 2,739 24 114
Michigan 1,742 16 109
New York 1,165 19 61
North Carolina 1,020 15 68
Kansas 1,000 2 500

Three of these states, Ohio, Michigan, and New York are definitely not low wage states. California dropped from a rank of 10th in the number of jobs shown on the 2014 table to 12th on this new table. Frankly, if a company can reshore to California, Michigan, New York and Ohio, they can reshore to anywhere in the U. S.

According to the 2012 Annual Re-Shoring Report by the MIT Forum For Supply Chain Innovation, the top decision drivers for reshoring are: (1) Time-to-Market – 73.7% (2) Cost Reductions – 63.9% (3) Product Quality – 62.2% (4) More Control – 56.8% (5) Hidden Supply Chain Management Costs – 51.4% and (6). Protect IP – 48.5%.

If reshoring continues to expand at its current rate, the Reshoring Initiative predicts that the $600 billion/year trade deficit would be eliminated; the U. S. economy would add 3 million manufacturing jobs while adding 9-12 million total jobs because of the multiplier effect of manufacturing jobs; reduce unemployment by 4%; cut the U.S. budget deficit by about 50%, and increase manufacturing output by 25%.

Because of my concerns about the impact of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement about which I have written, I recently asked Harry Moser for his opinion on the potential effects.

He said, “We have made huge progress from around 2003 when we were losing net about 130,000 manufacturing jobs/year till 2014 when reshoring plus FDI exceeded offshoring by about 10,000 jobs. However there are still about 3 million manufacturing jobs offshored. So, reshoring is still in its infancy and is still fragile. Offshore LLC prices are still typically 25% lower than domestic prices. It is a struggle to get companies to understand that in some cases the domestic total cost is lower even though the price is so much higher. Tariffs are one of the largest, most unambiguous of the “hidden costs” that need to be quantified. TPP will reduce tariffs, making the TCO argument more difficult and less likely to suggest reshoring. This is also an especially poor time for TPP with the USD up substantially and at its highest level in several years. The combination of the high USD and TPP will reduce the rate of reshoring by a roughly estimated 20 to 50%.”

He added, “Since the U.S. is the world’s largest market, with one language and with consumers who are mainly driven by price not nationalism, ours is the target market for all offshore companies. TPP will reduce barriers to trade, making our market even more attractive. If TPP has equal percentage impacts on our imports and our exports, the result will be negative since our goods imports exceed our exports by about 40%. ”

The TPP would reduce or eliminate tariffs for 11 more countries, so it will have the most impact on the companies that have reshored because of cost savings. I think Harry’s opinion that the TPP would have a 20 – 50% reduction on the rate of reshoring is conservative. This adverse effect on reshoring is one more reason why we must stop the fast track Trade Promotion Authority from being passed by the House. Now that the Trade Promotion Authority fast tracking the TPP passed the Senate, it is critical that you contact your Congressional Representative to urge them to oppose granting fast track Trade Promotion Authority for the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement.

 

Second Annual Manufacturing Day Celebrates American Knowhow

Tuesday, September 24th, 2013

The mission of Manufacturing Day 2013 on Friday, October 4th is to highlight the importance of manufacturing to the nation’s economy, address common misperceptions about manufacturing by giving manufacturers an opportunity to open their doors, and show what manufacturing is — and what it isn’t.

Manufacturing Day has become an annual national event after its inaugural year in 2012 that is executed at the local level supporting hundreds of manufacturers across the nation that host students, teachers, parents, job seekers and other local community members at open houses designed to showcase modern manufacturing technology and careers.

In its first year, more than 240 events were held in manufacturing facilities in 37 states and more than 7,000 people participated. This year’s celebration will feature open houses, public tours, career workshops and other activities to increase public awareness of modern manufacturing. Events also will introduce manufacturers to business improvement resources and services delivered through the MEP’s network of hundreds of affiliated centers across the country.

By working together during and after Manufacturing Day, manufacturers will begin to address the skilled labor shortage they face, connect with future generations, take charge of the public image of manufacturing, draw attention to the many rewarding high-skill jobs available in manufacturing fields, and ensure the ongoing prosperity of the whole industry.

This year’s Manufacturing Day is being co-produced by the Fabricators & Manufacturers Association, International (FMA), the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP), Industrial Strength Marketing which is a leading industrial B2B marketing agency, and the Manufacturing Institute. The national media partner for the event is the Science Channel.

“Manufacturing Day is a great opportunity to shift Americans’ perception that it is not our grandfather’s manufacturing anymore and to showcase the tremendous career opportunities manufacturing has to offer,” said NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons. “This day is an engaging way to attract young people and get them excited about pursuing a career in a technology-driven, innovative environment that will also provide a good-paying job. We encourage all manufacturers and manufacturing associations to get involved and share what we already know—manufacturing makes us strong.”

A long list of trade associations and private companies have joined the effort as sponsors that includes Shell and the Alliance for American Manufacturing at the Gold level, The Association of Manufacturing Excellence, Precision Metalforming Association, SME Education Foundation, Association for Manufacturing Excellence, the Plastics Industry Trade Association, and IHS GlobalSpec at the Silver level, as well as many others at the Bronze level. The long list of endorsers on the website includes my own www.savingusmanufacturing.com organization.

“We’re honored to be a part of Manufacturing Day this year and look forward to helping make it a success,” said Scott Paul, president of AAM. “An innovative and growing manufacturing base is vital to America’s economic and national security, as well as to providing good jobs for future generations.”

“The co-producers could not be more pleased that these organizations and companies, which work on such an integral level with all sectors of the manufacturing industry, are putting their full support behind Manufacturing Day,” said Ed Youdell, president and CEO of the Fabricators & Manufacturers Association. “Their reputation and their reach to professionals in the industry, as well as educators and students, will help generate participation in Manufacturing Day events across the nation.”

The SME Education Foundation sees this is an opportunity for educators and parents to visit local employers with children, particularly those in middle school, to get them excited about the career opportunities available for those who have critically important STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) skills.

“The SME Education Foundation is dedicated to opening multiple pathways for young people to find fulfilling, high paying careers in manufacturing.  Manufacturing Day is an opportunity to highlight manufacturing as vital to our economy and a career path that helps to growing wealth for the individual and for our nation,” said Bart A. Aslin, CEO, SME Education Foundation.  “Positive national media attention can help to dispel misconceptions about industries that provide safe, clean work environments while manufacturing products that improve standards of living in our global economy.”

Supported by this group of co-producers and industry sponsors, Manufacturing Day is designed to amplify the voice of individual manufacturers and coordinate a collective chorus of manufacturers with common concerns and challenges. The rallying point for a growing mass movement, Manufacturing Day empowers manufacturers to come together to address their collective challenges so they can help their communities and future generations thrive.

From now until Manufacturing Day, October 4th, enter the Manufacturing Day Sweepstakes to win a trip for two to a 2014 race of your choice, courtesy of Shell Lubricants. Eligible races include any of the Sprint Cup Series or Nationwide Series races during the 2014 season. The winner will be selected on October 7, 2013 and will be contacted shortly thereafter to claim their prize. Click here to enter today!

According to the 2012 Public Perception of Manufacturing report by the nonprofit Manufacturing Institute, 80 percent of Americans believe manufacturing is important to our economic prosperity, standard of living and national security. Yet, only 30 percent would encourage their children to go into manufacturing as a career. The hope is that by providing media, educators, parents, and kids with an inside look at the high-tech world of manufacturing this percentage will begin to grow.

With the gap growing each year between the skills students learn in school and those they will need on the job, it is increasingly difficult for manufacturers to find and hire qualified employees. By promoting Manufacturing Day, manufacturing associations and other organizations led by NIST MEP centers and the FMA said they want to remove some of the myths surrounding manufacturing. For example, manufacturing is a solid, long-term career choice for qualified candidates—including the young people who will form the workforce of tomorrow.

Here is a summary of a few reasons why we should acknowledge the importance of manufacturing by observing October 4th as Manufacturing Day that are outlined in greater detail in the chapter on “Why we should save American Manufacturing” from my book Can American Manufacturing be Saved? Why we should and how we can:

  • Manufacturing is the foundation of the American economy, and high-paying manufacturing jobs spurred a robust and growing economy and improved our quality of life. Manufacturing jobs were responsible for the lower working class rising into the middle class the last century.
  • Manufacturing is critical to our national defense because American manufacturers supply the military with the essential needed to defend our country. Without a strong manufacturing industry, America could lose future wars.
  • Manufacturing wages and benefits are 25-50 percent higher than non-manufacturing jobs. Only 16 percent of today’s workers earn the $20/hour ? down 60 percent since 1979.
  • United States is the world’s third largest exporter after China & Germany. Manufactured goods make up more than 60percent of U. S. exports, and high-tech products are largest export sector – four times as much as agriculture.
  • Manufacturing supports states’ economies through the taxes they pay. Manufacturing is the largest sector in 10 states, second largest in 9 states, and third largest in 21 states. Losing the critical mass of manufacturing will result in larger state and federal budget deficits. Over 90 percent of all manufacturers are small businesses of less than 100 people.

In my home town of San Diego, Manufacturing Day is being promoted by the California Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development, the County of San Diego, the City of San Diego, the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation, the East County EDC, the San Diego North County EDC, CONNECT, California Manufacturing Technology Consulting (CMTC), the Tijuana EDC, and D&K Engineering. The day starts off with:

8 a.m.  Breakfast and Networking
8:30 – 10 a.m. Program
San Diego City College, Corporate Ed Center
1551 C Street, San Diego, CA 92101

Moderator: Mark Cafferty, President & CEO, San Diego Regional EDC

Panelists joining the conversation are:
Stephan Aarstol, Founder & CEO, Tower Paddle Boards
Alex Kunczynski, President, D&K Engineering

Rick Urban, COO/CFO, Quality Controlled Manufacturing Inc.

Chris Wellons, Vice President of Manufacturing, Taylor Guitars

Unfortunately, this event is already sold out, but you can add your name to the wait list at www.october4mfgday.eventbrite.com.

Tours:  Following this Kick-off breakfast, you are invited to tour various local manufacturers who have agreed to open their doors to the community. Further information and registration to attend the tours can be found at www.MFGDay.com. Click on “Attend an Event” to find a tour near you.

To learn more about Manufacturing Day or to sign up to host or participate in one of the events, log on to www.mfgday. Organizations that wish to become involved as official sponsors of this program may email info@mfgday.com.

What is the Importance of Unmanned Vehicles to our Economy?

Tuesday, July 16th, 2013

We’ve heard a great deal about “drones” or unmanned vehicles over the last decade of the “war on terror” in Iraq and Afghanistan. While these terms are used interchangeably in the news media, the members of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) are quick to point out that the term “drone” was originally coined to refer to pilotless aircraft used for “target” practice by the military while an unmanned vehicle includes the technology on the ground, often with a human at the controls.

The mission of AUVSI is to advance the unmanned systems and robotics community internationally through education, advocacy and leadership. AUVSI represents more than 7,000 individual members and more than 600 corporate members from 60+ allied countries involved in the fields of government, industry and academia. AUVSI members work in the defense, civil and commercial markets.

In March 2013, AUVSI released a report, titled “The Economic Impact of Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration in the United States” to document the economic benefits to the  U.S. once Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) are integrated into in the National Airspace System (NAS) after the federal government tasked the Federal Aviation Ad­ministration (FAA) to determine how to integrate UAS into the NAS in 2012. This report estimates the economic impact of this integration and estimates the jobs and financial opportunity lost to the economy if there is a delay in enacting the regulations needed to do the integration.

The report states that “the main inhibitor of U.S. commer­cial and civil development of the UAS is the lack of a regulatory structure.” Non-defense use of UAS has been ex­tremely limited because of current airspace restrictions.

The combination of greater flexibility, lower capital and lower operating costs could allow unmanned vehicles to transform fields as diverse as urban infrastructure management, farming, and oil and gas exploration to name a few. The use of UAS in the future could be” a more responsible approach to certain airspace operations from an environmental, ecological and human risk perspective.”

Present-day unmanned vehicles have longer operational duration and require less maintenance than earlier models and are more fuel-efficient. These aircraft can be deployed in a number of different terrains and may not require prepared runways.

The Executive Summary states, “While there are multiple uses for UAS in the NAS, this research con­cludes that precision agriculture and public safety are the most prom­ising commercial and civil markets. These two markets are thought to comprise approximately 90% of the known potential markets for UAS.”

UAS are already being used in a variety of applications, and many more areas will benefit by their use, such as:

  • Wildfire mapping
  • Agricultural monitoring
  • Disaster management
  • Thermal infrared power line surveys
  • Law enforcement
  • Telecommunication
  • Weather monitoring
  • Aerial imaging/mapping
  • Television news coverage, sporting events, moviemaking
  • Environmental monitoring
  • Oil and gas exploration
  • Freight transport

While there are a number of different markets in which UAS can be used, the report concentrates on the two markets, commercial and civil, with the largest potential. A third category (Other) summarizes all other markets: Precision agriculture, Public safety, and Other.

“Precision agriculture refers to two seg­ments of the farm market: remote sens­ing and precision application. A vari­ety of remote sensors are being used to scan plants for health problems, record growth rates and hydration, and locate disease outbreaks. Such sensors can be attached to ground vehicles, aerial vehicles and even aerospace satellites. Precision application, a practice especially useful for crop farmers and horticulturists, uti­lizes effective and efficient spray techniques to more selectively cover plants and fields. This allows farmers to provide only the needed pes­ticide or nutrient to each plant, reducing the total amount sprayed, and thus saving money and reducing environmental impacts.”

Public safety officials include police officers and professional firefighters in the U.S., as well as a variety of profes­sional and volunteer emergency medical service providers who protect the public from events that pose significant danger, including natural disasters, man-made disasters and crimes.”

If sensible regulations are put in place, authors Darryl Jenkins and Dr. Bijan Visagh foresee few limitations to rapid growth in these industries because these products use off-the-shelf technology and thus impose few problems to rapidly ramping up pro­duction. The parts comprising these unmanned systems can be purchased from more than 100 different suppliers so prices will be stable and competitive. They can all be purchased within the U.S. or imported from any number of foreign countries without the need of an import license. For this report, they assume necessary airspace integration in 2015, which is on par with current legislation.

UAS have a durable life span of approximately 11 years and are relatively easy to maintain. The manufacture of these products requires technical skills equivalent to a college degree so there will always be a plentiful market of job applicants willing to enter this market. “The average price of the UAS is a frac­tion of the cost of a manned aircraft, such as a helicopter or crop duster, without any of the safety hazards. For public safety, the price of the product is approximately the price of a police squad car equipped with standard gear. It is also operated at a fraction of the cost of a manned aircraft, such as a helicopter, reducing the strain on agency budgets as well as the risk of bodily harm to the users in many difficult and dangerous situations. Therefore, the cost-benefit ratios of using UAS can be easily understood.”

The authors estimate enormous economic benefits to our country. To calculate the benefits, they forecast the number of sales in the three market categories. Next, they forecast the supplies needed to manufac­ture these products. Then, they forecast the number of direct jobs created using estimated costs for labor. Finally, using these factors, they forecast the tax revenue to the states.

In addition to direct jobs created by the manufacturing process, the authors state that there would be additional economic benefit by the new jobs created and income generated spread to local communities. “As new jobs are created, additional money is spent at the local level, creat­ing additional demand for local services which, in turn, creates even more jobs (i.e., grocery clerks, barbers, school teachers, home build­ers, etc.). These indirect and induced jobs are forecast and included in the total jobs created.”

The economic benefits to individual states will not be evenly dis­tributed. Ten states are predicted to see the most gains in terms of job creation and additional revenue as production of UAS increase, totaling more than $82 billion in economic impact from 2015-2025. In rank order they are:

  • California
  • Washington
  • Texas
  • Florida
  • Arizona
  • Connecticut
  • Kansas
  • Virginia
  • New York
  • Pennsylvania

“The economic projections contained in this report are based on the current airspace activity and infrastructure in a given state. As a result, states with an already thriving aerospace industry are projected to reap the most economic gains. However, a variety of factors—state laws, tax incentives, regulations, the establishment of test sites and the adoption of UAS technology by end users—will ultimately determine where jobs flow.”

The authors conclude:

1. The economic impact of the integration of UAS into the NAS will total more than $13.6 billion in the first three years of in­tegration and will grow sustainably for the foreseeable future, cumu­lating to more than $82.1 billion between 2015 and 2025.

2. Integration into the NAS will create more than 34,000 manufac­turing jobs and more than 70,000 new jobs in the first three years.

3. By 2025, total job creation is estimated at 103,776.

4. The manufacturing jobs created will be high paying ($40,000) and require technical baccalaureate degrees.

5. Tax revenue to the states will total more than $482 million in the first 11 years following integration (2015-2025).

6. Every year that integration is delayed, the United States loses more than $10 billion in potential economic impact. This translates to a loss of $27.6 million per day that UAS are not integrated into the NAS.”

They base the 2025 state economic projections on current aerospace employment in the states and presume that none of the states have enacted restric­tive legislation or regulations that would limit the expansion of the technology. Future state laws and regulations could also cause some states to lose jobs while others stand to gain jobs. States that create favorable regulatory and business environments for the industry and the technology will likely siphon jobs away from states that do not.

In conclusion, the study “demonstrates the significant contribution of UAS development and integration in the nation’s airspace to the economic growth and job creation in the aerospace industry and to the social and economic progress of the citizens in the U.S.

As the top ranked state and home to UAS manufacturers General Atomics and Northrop Grumman, California has active chapters of AUVSI, and the San Diego region chapter is AUVSI San Diego Lindbergh. Since both General Atomics and Northrop UAS plants are located in San Diego’s north county, in 2012, the North San Diego Chamber of Commerce commissioned the National University System Institute for Policy Research to conduct an economic assessment of the industry’s impact on San Diego’s defense economy. The report is titled, “Unmanned Aerial Vehicles:  An Assessment of Their Impact on San Diego’s Defense Economy. The report states, “Unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) production neared $1.3 billion in San Diego during 2011, according to analysis of federal government Depart of Defense (DoD) contract spending. UAV spending has grown significantly in San Diego over the past five years, nearly doubling since 2008. This growth parallels the increasing role played by UAVs in the U.S. military and the leadership position San Diego companies occupy in the UAV industry.”

While San Diego is still struggling to emerge from the 2008 national economic downturn, “the bright spot in the San Diego economy in recent years has been defense-related spending. Local defense expenditures grew substantially the past decade while military base operations and payrolls expanded. “Many economic observers, including the National University System Institute for Policy Research (NUSIPR), conclude that absent San Diego’s prowess in defense manufacturing and its role in hosting major military facilities, the local unemployment rate would have been significantly higher.”

At the peak of the recession, civilian unemployment in the county climbed to nearly 11 percent, and todaystill hovers around 9 percent. Companies have shed more than 50,000 jobs in the region. Local wages have fallen the past two years, while per capita income remains well below pre-recession peaks.

The important role of UAVs to the San Diego economy is emphasized by the fact that “UAV contracting activities in 2011 supported 7,135 direct and indirect jobs throughout San Diego County,” and “UAVs now comprise the largest segment of San Diego’s defense manufacturing sector. UAV production comprises more than 12 percent of all DoD contracting activities in San Diego County.” While DoD contracting in San Diego started to decrease in the past three years, UAV activity continued to expand.

“Since 2004, San Diego’s aerospace employment, now primarily focused on unmanned aircraft systems, has increased by 1,200 jobs. Just since early 2010, the sector has added 600 jobs. The two major UAV firms locally, Northrop Grumman and General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, each conduct billions of dollars in UAV unclassified contract work in San Diego County. According to Northrop Grumman Vice President Jim Zortman, ‘The center of the unmanned business for aerial vehicles is right here in San Diego.’”

The report states, “Production of UAVs is forecast to double by the end of the decade. Several forecasting firms have predicted the global demand for UAVs will reach $12 billion by 2019, even in the face of significant reductions in U.S. military spending.” There is every reason to believe San Diego is positioned to benefit from this trend given the leadership of Northrop Grumman and General Atomics Aviation in UAV technology.

However, several other states and regions are actively working to attract UAV researchers and manufacturers, and their efforts include the development of specialized educational programs and the preservation of airspace assets. Many states are setting aside dedicated airspace to support the UAV industry. Before the end of this year, the FAA will designate six areas around the country as UAS test sites.

In April of this year, the AUVSI San Diego Lindbergh Chapter joined the San Diego Regional Economic Development Council (EDC), the San Diego Military Advisory Council (SDMAC), the Imperial County EDC, County of Imperial, Holtville Airport, Indian Wells Valley Airport District (IWVAD), and defense contractors including General Atomics, Cubic Corporation, and Epsilon Systems Solutions, Inc. to respond to the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Screening for Information Request (SIR) and develop an Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) Test Range in a partnership with civil and military government agencies, academia, and industry. This coalition has joined an already established entity called the California Unmanned Systems Portal (Cal UAS Portal), which is based in Indian Wells, to create a proposed UAV Test Site that would extend from the NAS China Lake/Edwards Air Force Area, West to the Pacific Ocean, South to the Mexican border, and East to the Arizona border.

If San Diego wants to continue as a leading region for unmanned vehicles, it will be necessary for leaders in the private and public sectors to determine how best to support this industry and influence policymakers to address the high cost of doing business in California that is creating cost pressures on UAS manufacturers’ competitiveness in the worldwide UAS industry. As the report concludes, “Complacency could cause the region [and our country] to lose its leadership position and miss an opportunity to support an industry posed for growth.”

ITIF Report Details 50 Policies to Improve U.S. Manufacturing Competitiveness

Tuesday, September 25th, 2012

Last week, the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) released a report titled, “Fifty Ways to Leave Your Competitiveness Woes Behind: A National Traded Sector Competitiveness Strategy,” by Stephen Ezell and Robert Atkinson in which they stated, “A comprehensive strategy aimed at strengthening U.S. establishments competing in global markets is needed for the United States to boost short-term recovery and long-term prosperity…”

“The United States is increasingly isolated in its belief that countries don’t compete with one another and that only firms compete” said ITIF Senior Analyst Stephen Ezell, co-author of the report. “Our traded sector establishments are up against competitors that are aided in countless ways by their governments. It’s time to level the playing field.”

The report, presents 50 federal-level policy recommendations to help restore U.S. traded sector competitiveness, along with 13 state-level recommendations. The recommendations are organized around federal policies regarding the “4Ts” of technology, tax, trade, and talent, as well as policies to increase access to capital, reform regulations, and better assess U.S. traded sector competitiveness.

A nation’s traded sector includes industries such as manufacturing, software, engineering and design services, music, movies, video games, farming, and mining, which compete in international marketplaces and whose output is sold at least in part to nonresidents of the nation. They are the core engine of U.S. economic growth and face unique challenges.

Because these industries face competition in the global market that non-traded, local-serving industries (retail trade or personal services) do not, their success is riskier. “The health of U.S. traded sector enterprises in industries such as semiconductors, software, machine tools, or automobiles—all far more exposed to global competition than local-serving firms and industries—cannot be taken for granted.”

If a company like Boeing loses market share to Airbus, thousands of domestic jobs at Boeing, its suppliers, and the companies at which their employees spend money will be lost. In contrast, a local grocery store may compete for business with other supermarkets, but it is not threatened by international competition. If Safeway loses market share to Wal-Mart, the jobs remain in the United States.

Ezell and Atkinson state, “The fact that the U.S. traded sector has not created a single net new job in 20 years is a core reason for the current U.S. economic malaise.” They cite the research of Nobel Prize-winning economist Michael Spence, who has demonstrated that “from 1990 until the Great Recession started in 2007, the U.S. achieved virtually no growth in traded sector jobs. The malaise has been a downright decline in manufacturing, as the United States lost nearly one-third of its manufacturing workforce in the previous decade, saw on net over 66,000 manufacturing establishments close, accrued a trade deficit in manufactured products of over $4 trillion, and experienced a decline in manufacturing output of 11 percent at a time when U.S. GDP increased by 11 percent (when measured properly).”

Ezell and Atkinson corroborate what I have written previously ? “every lost manufacturing job has meant the loss of an additional two to three jobs throughout the rest of the economy. The 32 percent loss of manufacturing jobs was a central cause of the country’s anemic overall job performance during the previous decade, when the U.S. economy produced, on net, no new jobs….at the rate of growth in manufacturing jobs that occurred in 2011, it would take until at least 2020 for employment to return to where the economy was in terms of manufacturing jobs at the end of 2007.”

The reasons why the authors emphasize the importance of manufacturing as a “traded sector” are:

  • It will be difficult for the U. S. to balance its foreign trade without a robust manufacturing sector because manufacturing accounts for 86 percent of U.S. goods exports and 60 percent of total U.S. exports.
  • Manufacturing remains a key source of jobs that both pay well.
  • Each manufacturing job supports as an average of 2.9 other jobs in the economy.
  • The average wages in U.S. high technology are 86 percent higher than the average of other private sector wages.
  • Manufacturing, R&D, and innovation go hand-in-hand.
  • The manufacturing sector accounts for 72 percent of all private sector R&D spending.
  • Manufacturing employs 63 percent of domestic scientists and engineers.
  • U.S. manufacturing firms demonstrate almost three times the rate of innovation as U.S. services firms.
  • Manufacturing is vital to U.S. national security and defense.

They contend that “the engines of a nation’s competitiveness are in fact not mom and pop small businesses, but rather firms in traded sectors, high-growth entrepreneurial companies, and U.S.-headquartered multinational corporations. Although such firms comprise far less than 1 percent of U.S. companies, they account for about 19 percent of private-sector jobs, 25 percent of private-sector wages, 48 percent of goods exports, and 74 percent of nonpublic R&D investment. And, since 1990, they have been responsible for 41 percent of the nation’s increase in private labor productivity.”

The report notes that “traded sector businesses improve the local economy in three ways:

  1. Traded sector businesses bring money into a region by selling to people and businesses outside the region.
  2. They help keep local money at home through import substitution, which occurs when local residents and businesses purchase locally produced products instead of importing goods and services.
  3. They improve economic equity since “their productivity and market size tends to lead them to offer higher wage levels” and “jobs at traded sector companies help anchor a region’s middle class employment base by providing stable, living wage jobs for residents.”

While the authors believe all 50 recommendations are needed, they believe the 10 most critical recommendations are:

  1. Create a network of 25 “Engineering and Manufacturing Institutes” performing applied R&D across a range of advanced technologies.
  2. Support the designation of at least 20 U.S. “manufacturing universities.”
  3. Increase funding for the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP).
  4. Increase R&D tax credit generosity and make the R&D tax credit permanent.
  5. Institute an investment tax credit on purchases of new capital equipment and software.
  6. Develop a national trade strategy and increase funding for U.S. trade policymaking and enforcement agencies.
  7. Fully fund a nationwide manufacturing skills standards initiative.
  8. Expand high-skill immigration, particularly which focuses on the traded sector.
  9. Transform Fannie Mae into an industrial bank.
  10. Require the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) to incorporate a “competitiveness screen” in its review of federal regulations.

Only two of their top 10 recommendations made the list of the most critical recommendations in the second edition of my book:  # 4 and # 10. However, I support all of their other top 10 recommendations, as well as many of their other 40 recommendations, especially the following:

  • Lower the effective U. S. corporate tax rate – As of April 1, 2012 (when Japan lowered its corporate tax rate), the United States took the mantle of having the highest statutory corporate tax rate at almost 39 percent (when state and federal rates are combined) of any OECD nation.
  • Combat foreign currency manipulation
  • Better support and align trade promotion programs to boost U. S. exports.
  • Better promote reshoring.

I also support their recommendation that Congress should broaden the R&D tax credit’s scope to make it clear that process R&D (R&D to develop better ways of making things) qualifies for the tax incentive and that Congress should expand the R&D credit to allow expenditures on employee training to count as qualified expenditures.

With regard to trade enforcement, they recommend that the U. S. “exclude mercantilist countries from the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP)” because “the top 20 GSP-beneficiary countries — Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, the Philippines, Russia, Thailand, Turkey, and Venezuela—are on the U.S. Trade Representative’s Special 301 Watch List (which documents countries that fail to adequately protect U.S. companies’ or individuals’ intellectual property rights).”

I believe that enacting legislation to address foreign currency manipulation by China in particular should be in their top 10 recommendations. I also recommend that we enact legislation to establish either a Natural Strategic Tariff as recommended by economist Ian Fletcher in his book Free Trade Doesn’t Work:  What Should Replace It and Why, or a Balanced Trade Restoration Act to authorize sale of Import Certificates using either the Warren Buffet plan or the Richmans plan (as explained in their book Trading Away our Future).

I completely disagree with their recommendation to “Forge new trade agreements, including a high-standard Trans-Pacific Partnership and Trans-Atlantic Partnership.” As documented by Alan Uke in his book, Buying Back America, the U. S. has a trade deficit with nearly every single one of the countries with which it has a trade agreement. In fact, the U. S. has a trade deficit with 66 countries, the most egregious being the $278 billion deficit with China. Remember the touted benefits of NAFTA with Canada and Mexico? Well, in 2010, we had a trade deficit with Canada of $28 billion and $66 billion with Mexico. Do we want to increase our current trade deficit by adding more trading partners?

Additionally, the report articulates four key themes that the authors believe should be viewed as essential components of a U.S. traded sector competitiveness strategy. They recommend that the following key themes must be embraced by U.S. policymakers if the United States is to restore its traded sector competitiveness (summarized):

  1. The federal government must place strategic focus on its traded sectors, because it simply can’t rely entirely on its non-traded sectors to sustainably power the U.S. economy.
  2. The United States needs become much more of an engineering economy because gains from engineering-based innovation are capturable and appropriable within nations.
  3. The United States must move toward an economic system more focused on production than consumption, giving short-term consumption less priority in our politics.
  4. The structure of the global trading system must be seriously restructured to ensure that it is a trading system based on market-oriented principles and not the “innovation mercantilism” that has risen in the last decade, which fundamentally hurts the U.S. competitive position while violating the spirit and often the letter of the World Trade Organization.

Beyond federal policies to support traded sector competitiveness as a nation, the report also includes a section on recommended policies that states should implement to bolster their competitiveness, and in turn, the competitiveness of the broader U.S. economy. The state policy recommendations utilize the same “4Ts” framework as the federal recommendations.

Ezell and Atkinson state, “Implementing the policies recommended in this report will make the United States a more attractive investment environment for traded sector enterprises and their establishments. The technology policies will help spur innovation in advanced manufacturing, upgrade the technology capacity of manufacturing and other traded sector firms, help restore America’s industrial commons, and support the productivity, innovation, and competitiveness of traded sector SMEs. The tax policies will stimulate a favorable climate for private sector investment by making the overall U.S. corporate tax code more competitive with that of other nations and also by leveraging tax policy to incent private sector R&D and investment.”

In conclusion, they urge that U.S. policymakers understand that “manufacturing is not some low-value-added industry to be cavalierly abandoned.” Manufacturing is vital to U.S. competitiveness. I highly recommend reading all of this comprehensive, well-researched, well-documented report to be able to evaluate all of their recommendations and benefit from the details that are the basis for each recommendation.

What Could We Do Right Now to Create Jobs?

Tuesday, January 17th, 2012

There are numerous ideas and recommendations on how we could create jobs that range from the cautious to the extreme.  Most job creation programs proposed by commentators, politicians, and economists involve either increased government spending or reductions in income or employment taxes at a time of soaring budget deficits and decreased government revenue.  Other recommendations would require legislation to change policies on taxation, regulation, or trade that would be difficult to accomplish. Many of these solutions involve borrowing money or taking money from one group of citizens or a future generation to give to another.  Let’s start with what we as individuals can do from the viewpoint of entrepreneurs, business owners, employees, and consumers.

If you are an entrepreneur starting a company, find a niche product for which customers will be willing to pay more for a “Made in USA” product.   Plan to sell your product on the basis of its “distinct competitive advantage” rather than on the basis of lowest price.  Select your suppliers from American companies as this will create jobs for other Americans.

If you are the owner of an existing manufacturing company, then you could do a Total Cost of Ownership analysis for component parts that you are having made offshore to see if you could “reshore” some of all of them to be made in the United States.  Check out www.reshorenow.org for a TCO worksheet estimator to conduct your analysis.  Also, you could choose to keep R&D in the United States or bring it back to the United States if you have “offshored” it.    Every manufacturing job you keep or bring back to the United States will create an average of three to four support jobs for other Americans.  If you are a service company, you could choose to keep your customer service department in the United States or bring it back if it is “offshored.”  If enough manufacturing is “reshored” from China, we would drastically reduce our trade  $600 billion trade deficit .  We could create as many as three million manufacturing jobs, which would, in turn, create 9 – 12 million total jobs, bringing our unemployment down to 4 percent.

If you are an inventor ready to get a patent or license agreement for your product, select American companies to make parts and assemblies for your product as much as possible.  There are some electronic components that are no longer made in the U. S., so it may not be possible to source all of the component parts with American companies.  As I’ve written previously, there are many hidden costs to doing business offshore so that in the long run you may not save as much money as you expect by sourcing your product offshore.  Don’t forget about the danger of having your Intellectual Property stolen by a foreign company that will use it to make a copy-cat or counterfeit product sold at a lower price than your product.

If you are fortunate enough to have a regular, stable job, do everything in your power to contribute to the success of your company.  Do your job to the best of your ability.  Be willing to learn new job skills to increase your value to your employer.  No matter what your job, adopt the marketing mindset where you realize that everyone in a company is part of the marketing team regardless of their job function.  Every interaction that a customer or potential customer has with anyone in a company influences his or her opinion about doing business with that company.  Even though you are being paid by your employer, it’s actually your company’s customers that provide you with a job.

You may not realize it, but you have tremendous power as a consumer.  Even large corporations pay attention to trends in consumer buying, and there is beginning to be a trend to buy ‘Made in USA” products.  Pay attention to the country of origin labels when you shop and buy “Made in USA” products whenever possible.  Be willing to step out of your comfort zone and ask the store owner or manager to carry more “Made in USA” products.   If you buy products online, there are now a plethora of online sources dedicated to selling only “Made in USA” products.   Each time you choose to buy an American-made product, you help save or create an American job.  There is a ripple effect in that every manufacturing job creates three to ten other manufacturing jobs, depending on the industry.  If 200 million Americans bought $20 worth of American products instead of Chinese, it would reduce our trade imbalance with China by four billion dollars.  During the ABC World News series called “Made in America,” Diane Sawyer has repeatedly said, “If every American spent an extra $3.33 on U. S.-made goods, it would create almost 10,000 new jobs in this country.”

Now, let’s consider what Congress could do to create jobs.  First, Congress must enact legislation that addresses China’s currency manipulation.  Most economists believe that China’s currency is undervalued by 30-40% so their products may be cheaper than American products on that basis alone.  To address China’s currency manipulation and provide a means for American companies to petition for countervailing duties, the Senate passed S. 1619 last fall.  Even though the corresponding bill in the House, H. R. 639, had bi-partisan support with 231 co-sponsors, GOP leadership bottled up the bill in committee and prevented it from being brought up for a vote, so the session ended without action to address this serious issue.  The 112th Congress lasts two years, starting in Jan 2011 and ending December 2012, so there is the opportunity for the bill to be voted on this year.

We  voters need to pressure our elected representatives in the House to pass this bill this year so that American products can compete against Chinese imports.  It’s an obvious fact that if American companies can increase sales of their products, then they will be able to hire more workers.

Second, Congress should pass legislation allowing American corporations to “repatriate” income earned by plants in foreign countries at a reduced tax rate of 5-5.5% if the income is permanently reinvested in the United States.  This would bring nearly 1.2 billion dollars of monies back to the U. S. to be invested in R&D, plants, equipment, and hiring workers.

Third, Congress should strengthen and tighten procurement regulations to enforce “buying American” for all government agencies and not just the Department of Defense.   All federal spending should have “buy America provisions giving American workers and businesses the first opportunity at procurement contracts.  New federal loan guarantees for energy projects should require the utilization of domestic supply chains for construction.  No federal, state, or local government dollars should be spent buying materials, equipment, supplies, and workers from China.

My other recommendations for creating jobs are based on improving the competitiveness of American companies by improving the business climate of the United States so that there is less incentive for American manufacturing companies to outsource manufacturing offshore or build plants in foreign countries.  The proposed legislation would also close tax loopholes and prevent corporations from avoiding paying corporate income taxes.  They are:

  • Reduce corporate taxes to 25 percent
  • No negotiation or ratification by Congress of any new Free Trade Agreements
  • Make capital gains tax of 15 percent permanent
  • Increase and make permanent the R&D tax credit
  • Eliminate the estate tax (also called the Death Tax)
  • Improve intellectual property rights protection and increase criminal prosecution
  • Prevent sale of strategic U.S.-owned companies to foreign-owned companies
  • Enact legislation to prevent corporations from avoiding the U.S. income tax by reincorporating in a foreign country
  • Change the tax code to a “partial exemption system” to eliminate incentives for companies to move offshore by taxing all corporate income at a reasonable rate once

In this election year, it is unlikely that legislation proposing any of these recommendations would have a chance of being passed by Congress.  The problem is that no Democrat would want to allow any credit to go to a Republican, which might help them win re-election, and no Republican would want to allow any credit to go to a Democrat, which might help them win re-election.   We will need to wait until after the 2012 election before we have any hope of such legislation being considered.

Finally, the Obama administration is considering a high-level task force to manage China trade enforcement issues. Such a task force is desperately needed and long overdue.  The challenge will be to ensure that the task force has the authority to take bold steps to lower our trade deficit with China.  Holding China accountable for their compliance with terms of their membership in the World Trade Organization would be a major step in helping American manufacturers compete in the global marketplace to be able to succeed, grow and create jobs in America instead of China.