Now is a good time for manufacturers to get the attention of their congressional representatives, says AMT's Amber Thomas, as Congress' summer recess approaches. Now is the time for manufacturers to educate themselves on the latest pro-manufacturing issues and have effective communications with lawmakers.
Manufacturers should pay attention to what's going on in Washington. Just in the last few weeks, President Barack Obama announced new initiatives
to increase manufacturing competitiveness, three major reports were released to underscore the importance of building a strong manufacturing sector, and, on Capitol Hill, bipartisan tax legislation
that would boost investment in capital equipment and incentivize research and development moved a major step forward to becoming law.
It's not just government officials, school boards, and business leaders across the country that can agree manufacturing leads to economic growth and job creation. The fact that manufacturing is at the center of the national agenda today is a testament to the tenacity of a proud sector that is as much a part of the national fabric as baseball and apple pie. Manufacturing has kept pace with a rapidly shifting workforce and technological advances that have dramatically changed the entire production process. It has emerged as the key driver behind U.S. economic recovery since the recession.
U.S. manufacturers must to continue to stand together in their resolve to improve the competitive landscape so that American manufacturing will keep its place as the best in the world. And the sector needs to challenge Congress in demanding pro-manufacturing change from Washington.
Every August, federal lawmakers head to their home states and districts. This is the time they hear from constituents about what is important to their businesses, communities, and families. It is one of the best times for manufacturers to meet face-to-face with their elected officials. Schedule a meeting with your members of Congress while they are on your turf to discuss how Washington is your affecting business and American manufacturing competitiveness. Better yet, show them firsthand by scheduling a tour of your plant.
Take the time now to get up to speed on the issues that matter. Start with the recent manufacturing reports released by the National Economic Council ("Making in America: U.S. Manufacturing Entrepreneurship and Innovation"
), the Commerce Department ("Manufacturing Since the Great Recession"
), and the University of Virginia's Millstein Commission on Manufacturing ("Building a Nation of Makers"
). They are consistent in their findings about the impact and importance of a vibrant U.S. manufacturing sector.
Here are few things your federal lawmakers need to hear:
Clear Up the Tax Code
It is important to create certainty in the tax code for small and medium-sized manufacturers and encourage investment in plants, equipment, and R&D by making permanent increased Section 179 small business expensing limits and the R&D tax credit. Although comprehensive tax reform is going nowhere this year, there is hope for these two tax extender provisions important to manufacturers. Legislation to make permanent Section 179 and R&D tax credit rules passed the House on bipartisan votes but is mired in partisan gridlock in the Senate. Tell your members of Congress that this is unacceptable.
READ MORE ON SECTION 179 FROM THOMASNET NEWS
Implement Full Tax Depreciation
Temporary 100 percent bonus depreciation would stimulate plant modernization, efficiency, and productivity and jump-start the economy and job creation. Congressmen Tom Rice (R-S.C.) and Brad Schneider (D-Ill.) have introduced a temporary 100 percent bonus depreciation bill (H.R. 4822), which would allow manufacturers to deduct the full cost of manufacturing equipment in the year of the equipment's purchase versus spreading the deduction over several years, alleviating manufacturers' tax burdens. Allowing manufacturers to fully depreciate the value of their equipment in the year of purchase helps simplify their accounting, improve their cash flows, and encourage investment in manufacturing technologies.
Get Real on Immigration
Enactment of immigration reform is still important. Consistent tax policy is not the only issue important to manufacturers. Although immigration reform is all but dead following the stunning primary loss of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), a compromise among lawmakers that improves border security, allows a pathway to citizenship, and includes provisions for keeping STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) and high-skilled workers in the United States remains important.
Reauthorize Ex-Im Bank
The Ex-Im Bank
is an important business tool for American manufacturers and should be reauthorized with its charter upgraded. Urge your members of Congress to reauthorize the Ex-Im Bank and to reform its charter to make it easier for small and medium-sized manufacturers to take advantage of the opportunities the world market has to offer. Remember, the vast majority of the world's consumers live outside U.S. borders.
Stimulate R&D and Innovation
Innovation depends on continued investment in education, training, and R&D. Don't forget to put in a good word to urge for federal support in STEM education, technology R&D, and advanced manufacturing programs. Congress is currently considering FY2015 funding, and collaboration is key. The manufacturing sector is holding up its end of the bargain by partnering with universities, community colleges, and other local institutions to build an innovation infrastructure. It is the federal government's responsibility to provide a clear national manufacturing strategy and framework through its various agencies, creating programs with access to R&D funding, economic development services, and education and training.
The future of manufacturing depends on the engagement of our schools, our civic leaders, and manufacturers themselves. There is no better time than the present to introduce yourself and your company to your elected representatives. Creating the best possible environment for the manufacturing sector depends on making ourselves heard by sending a message to Washington that strong manufacturing means a stronger economy. This is something all of us can support.
Top photo: The Commerce Department's Patrick Gallagher visits Omega Plastics earlier this year.
Amber Thomas is vice president of advocacy for AMT - The Association For Manufacturing Technology. Based in McLean, Va., AMT represents and promotes U.S.-based manufacturing technology and its members - those who design, build, sell, and service the continuously evolving technology that lies at the heart of manufacturing. For more, visit AMT's website at www.amtonline.org.