A few weeks ago, Tom Silvestri of Richmond Times Dispatch commented on the current economic situation while reviewing a book called Make It In America: The Case for Re-inventing the Economy by Andrew Liveris, an engineer and CEO of Dow Chemical Company. Mr. Silversti wrote that the book was a “call to action” proclamation on how the United States can get its economic groove back. Ok, I bit and bought the book, stimulated the economy.
Mr. Liveris reminds us that the manufacturing sector creates more economic growth than other business sectors because it impacts other “supply chain” businesses. He also argues, as Mr. Silvestri pointed out, that where manufacturing goes, research and development follows. Lose one, lose both.
He writes that our continued loss of companies that actually make things and, now loss of R&D, is not caused by lower wages in other countries. It is caused by our indifference to this business sector. He argues: our government doesn’t compete with other countries to keep our companies at home; our tax code and incentives are out-dated; our national infrastructures – roads, ports, power grid –are corroded and dumb; and our education system doesn’t graduate enough science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) students. He tells us that we are eating China and Germany’s dust when it comes to competing in the global market. He should know – he’s a player.
Mr. Liveris believes we need to re-invent the manufacturing sector in America by creating a master plan that reforms government tax code; draws more students to science, technology, engineering and mathematics careers; and makes our infrastructure “smart.” This re-invention will encourage innovative industries like green energy and other advanced manufacturing start-ups to thrive and grow. Perhaps this country needs an engineer to get things running again.
Footnote: Dwight D. Eisenhower surrounded himself with scientists and engineers while in the White House. During his administration several programs were launched which contributed to the long-term economic welfare of the United States. Examples of these programs included National Aeronautic and Space Administration (NASA), Interstate Highway System (Federal-Aid Highway Act), and the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA). ARPA developed the “internetworking” system to connect scientific mini-computers located coast to coast. (This “internetworking” is what we all know and love and call the Internet.)