Crain's Detroit Business: Commentary: It's time to renew our country's emphasis on manufacturing

Since before the first cars rolled off the Model T assembly line, Michigan has been at the forefront of innovation. Today, our automakers, parts suppliers, and advanced manufacturers have worked hard to keep our state — and our country — competitive by creating and utilizing cutting-edge technologies.

For too long though, the federal government has taken a piecemeal approach to manufacturing — and the coronavirus pandemic has shined an even greater spotlight on those challenges.

Early on in the pandemic, there were severe supply chain challenges when it came to producing personal protective equipment and medical supplies. Later, many manufacturers faced challenges reopening supply chains.

I've heard from small business owners across the state who suffered as a result. In fact, 75 percent of manufacturers have reported negative impacts in their operations due to this pandemic — and we have to remember that 99 percent of manufacturers are small businesses.

That hurts Main Street in communities across our state.

In addition to new challenges brought on by the pandemic, we've seen a longer-term shift away from manufacturing hubs in the Midwest and towards industries that outsource manufacturing abroad. Without a comprehensive strategy to coordinate policies and resources that will help companies grow our domestic manufacturing base, we will be at an economic disadvantage — especially when our global competitors, like Germany and South Korea, have significant government support and focused plans to advance and grow their own manufacturing sectors.

Our country's reliance on foreign manufacturers not only negatively impacts small business owners and our economy, it presents an ongoing and concerning national security risk. If we don't make essential supplies here, then in times of national emergency we can be quickly left short-handed — as we've experienced with this pandemic.

That's why I introduced legislation that would create a unified strategy to maintain our nation's position as a leader in an increasingly competitive global marketplace. I reintroduced legislation to establish a National Institute of Manufacturing within the Department of Commerce — similar to the bill I put forward last year, along with two new bipartisan bills. One would reactivate and improve the National Manufacturing Advisory Council, and the other would establish a one-stop website to help manufacturers access valuable resources from the federal government.

Creating a National Institute of Manufacturing would cut red tape and streamline the 50-plus manufacturing programs that are scattered across the federal government. This would help root out waste, make government more efficient, and allow for more coordination across the board and make resources more readily available to manufacturers in our state and across the country as they work to recover from this pandemic.

Reactivating the National Manufacturing Advisory Council would provide the private sector with insight into the federal government and vice versa. The council would also be a key player in creating federal manufacturing policy and strategy.

In a state and a country known for our innovation, we need to make it as easy as possible for manufacturers to get the tools they need to stay at the forefront of development — which is why it would be so important to have Manufacturing.gov as a central hub of information and communication with the federal government.

Taken together, these bills would bring manufacturing to the forefront of our federal policymaking. In doing so, we can bring jobs back to Michigan, strengthen our manufacturing capabilities, bolster our national security and create the technology of the future.

As Michiganders have known for generations, you can't be a great country if you don't make things. As the greatest country on Earth, let's make leading the world in innovation and manufacturing a priority.

Democrat Gary Peters is a U.S. senator from Michigan.

By:  U.S. Senator Gary Peters
Source: Crain's Detroit Business