Return of a mighty economic force
There’s an iconic moment in the 1989 film “Field of Dreams” where Iowa farmer Ray Kinsella hears a voice saying: “If you build it they will come.” Ray heeds the voice’s words and — as one does — builds a baseball diamond in the middle of Iowa where the ghosts of former great baseball stars emerge from his cornfield to play ball.
There’s a reason this classic, if somewhat unique, story has stood the test of time. Building things is part of America’s DNA. Building things matters.
In October, we celebrate America’s manufacturing might with National Manufacturing Month.
What better time to assess manufacturing’s contributions to the nation and Oklahoma? I wholeheartedly believe in the importance of building things, of making something that matters, and in fact, I’ve spent my career in the manufacturing sector. I oversee Claremore’s Pelco Structural plant, where we design, fabricate and manufacture steel poles for a variety of uses including carrying crucial electricity to power America’s robust economy.
In recent decades, manufacturing has faded a bit in public sentiment, but favorable tax policies and a surging economy have placed manufacturing at center stage once again. According to the National Associations of Manufacturers, “for every $1.00 spent in manufacturing, another $1.89 is added to the economy. That is the highest multiplier effect of any economic sector.” In 2017, manufacturing provided for 11.6 percent of GDP, and during 2018’s first quarter, manufacturing contributed $2.33 trillion to the U.S. economy, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. In the past 12 months, the increase in jobs in the industry has been the most since 1995.
As new technologies and new opportunities arise within the sector, it’s time we recognize the re-emergence of the increasingly important manufacturing sector. Our industry’s family sustaining jobs propel the economy and provide Americans with good wages and significant benefits. Over the next decade, it’s expected that nearly 3.5 million manufacturing jobs will be created, and it’s crucial that our workforce is prepared to meet the significant need.
In Oklahoma, manufacturing accounts for one of the largest shares of employment and private output, and manufacturing jobs were some of the leading contributors to earnings growth in early 2018. The industry is a boon for our state, one in which we should focus greater time, education and energy into since a job in manufacturing will yield strong economic and societal returns. Though recent tariffs and a widening skills gap — according to Deloitte, 84 percent of executives agree that there’s a worker shortage in the industry — have hampered progress in some sectors, the industry as a whole continues to thrive. Historical growth is predicted in wages, hiring and investment, and that growth benefits our nation, state, communities and families.
In spite of concerns about tariffs and workforce shortage, optimism remains high for the future of the manufacturing sector. Manufacturing is no longer looking backward, we are looking forward, embracing new technologies including the evolution of artificial intelligence, as one example. The backbone of America’s renaissance is back, better and stronger than ever. Building things is bringing prosperity and optimism to our great state and nation. That’s worth celebrating.