Editor’s note: The promise of a ‘Made in America’ era

April 30, 2013

When I was growing up in Cleveland, many relatives and family friends worked in factories making cars and auto parts. Then it became cheaper to manufacture overseas. Plants closed and joblessness rose. But in the past few years, thanks in part to raising labor prices abroad and the U.S. shale gas boom that has cut energy costs here, manufacturing is making a comeback.

A half-million U.S. manufacturing jobs have been created since 2009. While that number pales in comparison to the millions of jobs lost over the past two decades, the “Made in America” sector is basking in recent good news. Ever more clever machines are vastly increasing productivity. More U.S. goods are sold overseas, boosting the economy. Youngstown — an hour’s drive east of Cleveland — is a new hub of innovative manufacturing. In Northeast Ohio, the private sector, the federal government, and colleges are combining resources to develop game-changing technology and better train workers.

In other parts of the country, there are signs of a comeback, too. America is making more cars, medical devices, food, machinery and other products. As Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) said at the April 23 manufacturing summit held at The Washington Post, “We want to be a country that makes stuff again, invents things, exports to the world.” Gov. Bill Haslam (R-Tenn.) said his state led the South in new manufacturing jobs created last year. Whether workers are making Jack Daniels, chemicals or orthopedic walking boots, Haslam said, “there is a certain pride” associated with turning out a fine product.

This new “Made in America” era holds a lot of promise. Given the global competition, it may also depend on how much the country invests in fostering cutting-edge technology and training workers.

— Mary Jordan

Editor, Washington Post Live

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