U.S. manufacturers’ spirits have been rising. Whether caused by the manufacturing-focused election season or America’s continued economic recovery, optimism is on the rise across Texas.
The Dallas Fed’s recent report reflects this trend. It found that factory activity increased for the seventh consecutive month in January. New orders climbed to a multiyear high as well, pointing toward good things to come.
The numbers are encouraging, but economic indicators aren’t what matter to working families. They want to know that their jobs are secure and that new opportunities are on the horizon.
The good news: they are.
Texas’ economic growth is delivering benefits—directly to employees’ paychecks. Wages are on the rise. And the state has become so popular for business, some experts are worried about a lack of skilled employees to fill the manufacturing positions being created.
The Lone Star State is in good stead, but questions remain. How can we build on our success and invite all geographic areas and all communities to join in our increasing prosperity? And what role can President Donald Trump and leaders in Washington, DC, play in reaching our goals?
So far, the new administration has been signaling its commitment to manufacturing. Early actions have targeted some of manufacturers’ highest priorities. For example, a key executive order paved the way for relief from federal regulations, which today impose more than 297,000 restrictions on manufacturing operations. This is a sign of progress for the 81 percent of Texas manufacturers that cite regulatory burdens as a top concern.
Other likely positives include a more rational perspective on energy. President Trump has greenlit previously delayed pipeline projects, which will create jobs, including manufacturing jobs.
We could be on the cusp of an inclusive energy future, one in which companies like Home Depot can invest heavily in Texas-derived wind power, while oil and gas exploration is freed from Obama-era limits onshore and in the Gulf. Such a balanced strategy would help control electricity prices, ensure a reliable power grid, protect our national security and, once again, create jobs.
As promising as the outlook may be, manufacturers and their supporters must remain vigilant. Some of the most needed changes, including infrastructure investment and tax reform, will require hard-won legislation on Capitol Hill.
At the moment, leaders in both parties seem committed to the idea of repairing the nation’s crumbling roads and bridges, upgrading our ports and waterways, and expanding broadband internet access—but plans for accomplishing these objectives differ widely. Compromise must be reached, or the U.S. stands to lose 2.5 million jobs by 2025 because of infrastructure deficiencies.
We should also seize the opportunity to act on comprehensive tax reform. Sensible changes to America’s outdated tax code could add more than 6.5 million jobs over ten years. Working families should not be asked to give those up because of political infighting.
These are some of the issues the National Association of Manufacturers will be discussing at the 2017 State of Manufacturing Tour launch in Austin this week. It’s an honor to have Texas leading off this event. Our manufacturers deserve the national spotlight for facing down economic headwinds, including declining oil prices, to innovate, expand and steer our state toward a brighter future.
Local industry leaders and our counterparts from across the nation will be using this unique opportunity to underscore why U.S. manufacturing remains the envy of the world. Because for all of the issues we have yet to conquer, we already possess assets that make America truly exceptional. Our manufacturing base is strong, our domestic energy resources are plentiful and our workforce is second to none.
The next challenge will be to make American manufacturing even greater than it is today.
Editor’s note: The above guest column was co-written by Tony Bennett and Chris Wallace. Bennett is president and CEO of the Texas Association of Manufacturers. Wallace is the president of the Texas Association of Business.