Let’s Rebuild Manufacturing in America, One State at a Time

Last week I was privileged to moderate a manufacturing roundtable at which six members of the Connecticut manufacturing community met with Congressional candidate Elizabeth Esty to share with each other their principal thoughts and concerns about the key issues they have to confront every day.

Charlie (left corner) and Elizabeth Esty Listen to Manufacturers

The most prominent issues we discussed were:

  • The lack of an equitable formula for providing health care insurance,
  • The challenges relating to company relationships with technical education institutions,
  • The generally unfavorable and unwarranted public perception of manufacturing as an undesirable career,
  • The lack of balance in government grants and tax incentives to facilitate hiring the unemployed and training employees for improved productivity.
  • The special complexities of operating in global marketplaces.

The participating companies represent a fair cross-section of small manufacturers. They make products that are in everyday use across a wide spectrum of commercial and military applications. What is fundamental about all of them is that they add a lot of value to lives in their communities. They provide very well-paying jobs and are central in the prosperity of a vibrant middle class. In this way they also serve as antidotes to the problems that stem from those American enterprises that do little besides change money. After sequestering huge rewards and further widening the national economic divide, these companies then pass on the residual socio-economic messes to the rest of us.

Building on the promise and insights of the roundtable, our task now is to create approaches to the issues and build a breakthrough strategy to restore the Connecticut manufacturing community to its former prominence. It will take some time to do this in ways that are respectful of the social, economic and political realities of our times. If done thoughtfully enough, new mutually re-enforcing relationships will be evolved between all of our manufacturing community’s constituencies. A dynamic strategic planning process, in which all parties become invested, should become a permanent part of the Connecticut social, economic, and political landscape. If we do this, our small state will become a model for other, formerly strong, industrial regions to reclaim their own creative and economic power.

We live in an era of unprecedented change and possibility. There are legions of brilliant, motivated, and at least sometimes subsidized competitors out there vying for market share. We should not be daunted by any of this. Our creative talent, in Connecticut as elsewhere, is only waiting for the right leadership in order to realize its potential. We can do this.