America needs to make things again.
Why? Because the kinds of jobs that send kids to college and provide a secure retirement are not minimum-wage jobs. Creating high-wage jobs, middle-class jobs and steady year-round jobs will take revitalizing the American manufacturing economy.
The average wage for manufacturing work in America is 20 percent higher than the overall average wage – a premium that reflects the tremendous value added to our economy from the manufacturing sector. Each manufacturing job produces up to four other jobs and, according to a recent report, each $1 spent in manufacturing creates $1.43 in other sectors. That’s a “multiplier effect” nearly twice that of other parts of our economy.
When we make things, we keep vital skills in this country. We keep our balance of trade healthy – so we have control of our economic future. We keep the high-wage manufacturing industries that fund research and development, so our economy doesn’t fall behind.
And manufacturing isn’t just big factories anymore. The “buy local” and “maker” movements have shown the tremendous economic and creative energies released, and the environmental benefits gained, when we stay local.
Manufacturing is also one of the few sources of steady and secure jobs for those who do not graduate from four-year colleges – and that helps build a just economy that creates opportunity for everyone.
Of course, we are not going to bring every manufacturing job back. And we might not want to invest our national efforts in the very lowest wage manufacturing jobs. But we can target the kinds of jobs that will help create a path for American families to the middle class.
That’s exactly the path my own family followed. When I was young, we lived in a trailer in a logging town on the coast of Washington State. I watched my dad start a small trucking business with a single truck he drove himself. Through his hard work, I was able to go on to college, earn a degree in chemical engineering and then an advanced degree – and use my education to start a company that created technology to help U.S. manufacturers compete in the global market place.
Later, I co-founded the Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology at UC Berkeley – and today, I teach bright young engineers and entrepreneurs the skills they need to maintain America’s lead in technology.
All of my experience creating jobs and sparking innovation has led me to one simple conclusion. We can’t outsource our way to prosperity. We need to do more than just design, and then consume, products. We need to make things again.
As tough as the American economy is right now, there is reason for hope when it comes to Making More in America again. Over the past two years, the economy has added 334,000 manufacturing jobs – the strongest two‐year period of manufacturing job growth since the late 1990s. Manufacturing production grew 5.7 percent on an annualized basis since its low in June of 2009, the fastest pace of growth of production in a decade. But we still have a long way to go to recover from the more than two million manufacturing jobs lost in the recession.
Consider this math: if we could return to the level of the late 1970s when about 20 percent of jobs were in the manufacturing sector – we would create 12 million new jobs directly and spur another 30 million new jobs in downstream support services. Why is that number so important? Because that’s just about the number of jobs we need to restore and create over the next ten years to get back to full employment in the U.S.
To get there, we need more than promises.
That’s why I’ve published a detailed plan at www.StaceyLawson.com designed to restore the manufacturing jobs that sustain the middle class – manufacturing employment. It’s called “Making More in America,” and it lays out seven major priorities to get us there.
Restoring our manufacturing economy won’t be easy, and it isn’t the only thing we need to do – it is just a start. But if we care about restoring the middle class and creating the kinds of jobs that pay decent living wages – wages that help buy houses, pay college tuitions, fund decent retirements – this is exactly where we should start. So let’s get going.
Stacey Lawson is a Congressional candidate in California’s newly drawn Second District. She is an educator and small business owner living in San Rafael, CA.
You can download a copy of Stacey Lawson’s “Making More in America” jobs plan here: http://staceylawson.com/making-more-in-america-jobs-plan/