Why we must support U.S. manufacturing

There are many things policymakers can do to help innovative companies grow

Since taking office, my number one priority has been to help our local businesses create more jobs and grow economic opportunity for Granite State workers. One of the most promising and effective ways we can help generate high-paying, sustainable jobs for the future is to accelerate the revival of manufacturing. 

Recently, I visited Airmar in Milford, which is a family-owned producer of advanced sonar technology that is expanding and creating jobs in their community. I was inspired by Airmar’s innovation and success in international exports, which can serve as a model for companies in New Hampshire and across the country. 

My goal is to implement policies that help other manufactures replicate this success. There are so many things policymakers can do to help innovative companies like Airmar to grow, like promoting a common sense regulatory and tax environment, helping train workers in the skills they need, and giving businesses assistance to access global markets. 

I’ve been proud to support and contribute to the “Make It In America Agenda,” a comprehensive collection of ideas and legislation to help advance U.S. manufacturing. And I was so proud to have Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, who has led House Democrats’ efforts to advance this agenda, visit the Granite State recently to hear directly from our manufacturers and other stakeholders about what Congress needs to be doing to help them grow. 

A critical part of the Make It In America Agenda is reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank. The Ex-Im Bank has been key in promoting manufacturing exports through direct loans and loan guarantees to foreign buyers of U.S.-made goods. The bank has directly supported $314 million in export sales for New Hampshire companies over the last five years, which is a huge impact in a small state like ours. 

Companies like The Mountain in Marlborough, which exports products to Europe and China, rely on the bank to help expand their businesses. On top of that, the Ex-Im Bank generates net revenue for the U.S. Treasury, over $7 billion during the last two decades. 

Unfortunately, like many issues in Washington these days, the Bank has been needlessly politicized by ideologues putting their radical conservative agenda ahead of the needs of businesses and families. As a result, its authorization expired earlier this summer, meaning that it can no longer make new loans, putting our economy at a competitive disadvantage. We’ve already seen the negative impacts of the Bank’s expiration as companies like General Electric, which employs hundreds of New Hampshire workers at their Hooksett facility, are placing hundreds of new jobs in countries that are continuing export financing, rather than in the U.S. 

Despite the temporary lapse in authority, I was proud to join with my House colleagues on both sides of the aisle to support the reauthorization of the Ex-Im Bank to ensure that American business can successfully compete in today’s global economy. I am hopeful that my colleagues in the Senate will join me in supporting the bank’s reauthorization so that we can better support the efforts of companies in New Hampshire and across the country, and in turn foster vital job creation for American workers. 

Of course, there are many other things we can do to spur development of high-tech manufacturing in New Hampshire. As I talk to manufacturers across the state, a constant refrain I hear is that they simply can’t find workers with the skills they need. At the same time, we have experienced workers that can’t find jobs. This phenomenon is largely the result of how rapidly manufacturing techniques can change and the need to have effective training and retraining to make sure workers have the most relevant skills. 

To help accomplish this, I recently reintroduced the Workforce Development Investment Act to provide a tax credit to employers who partner with community colleges and technical schools. This credit would create joint apprenticeships and other training opportunities to tailor workforce training to more closely align with the skills that are in demand. 

Another important aspect of workforce development is changing the perception of manufacturing away from the dated industrial model of 20th century manufacturing to the modern version of advanced, high-skill manufacturing. 

The New England Council has made fantastic strides in this area by talking to manufacturers across the region and focusing on a rebranding of manufacturing as the “Maker Movement.” The NH Manufacturing Extension Partnership has led the effort here in the Granite State. I look forward to continuing to work with stakeholders on how we can better encourage bright young people to contribute their skills toward changing the world through advanced manufacturing.  

Democratic Congresswoman Ann McLane Kuster represents New Hampshire’s 2nd District.

Categories: Opinion