Last month after taking a shot at Forbes columnist Tim Worstall for his snarky column, "Manufacturing Isn't Important But Factory Goods Orders Are Rising -- That's Nice," I heard back from Worstall in a cordial if combative response.
Among other things, I'd argued that his habit of diminishing manufacturing simply because companies move it offshore undermines the sector by undervaluing it. Worstall wouldn't have it. He responded, "I am not saying that manufacturing shouldn't happen. I am saying that it's entirely unimportant that it happens in the U.S. or not."
I invited Worstall to Colorado to debate the proposition, as I disagree with his premise and his clarification. But our friendly, in-person spat will have to wait, as Worstall's ensconced in Portugal.
Perhaps his colleague at Forbes, John Tammy, will accept in his stead. Tammy is also anti-manufacturing, as evidenced by his shortsighted missive published a few weeks later, "When They Promise To Bring Back Manufacturing Jobs, They're Promising Stagnation." Tammy chides that manufacturing jobs are a vestige of the Civil War era, when "New York was a city of factories." He adds, "Lest we forget, it’s where the talented migrate, and the talented disdain low-wage, back-breaking manufacturing work. So have American workers of all stripes left manufacturing employment behind."
This surprisingly common theme in the business press, that manufacturing and a modern U.S. economy don't mix, runs headlong into a different reality on the ground. Manufacturing jobs are coming back, reshored or contemplated in the U.S. first, despite the protests.
Here are five reasons why:
The straightforward means to accelerate the trend and establish a new manufacturing labor class is to focus on the domestic supply chain. Companies that want to make more products in the U.S. need more of, well, everything.
Support of the domestic supply chain is a clear litmus test for any trade association, economic development entity, elected official, or academic leader that claims to support manufacturing.
Bart Taylor is publisher of CompanyWeek. Reach him at email@example.com.