by Robert Donachie
WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. manufacturers are investing in new factories and equipment, hiring more workers, raising wages and benefits for employees and giving away at least $500 million to charity in response to the Republican tax bill, National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) President and CEO Jay Timmons told The Daily Caller News Foundation Friday.
Only last week Timmons sent a survey out to every member of NAM–a group that represents upwards of 14 million manufacturing workers nationwide–to see how each planned to use their dividends from the tax bill President Donald Trump signed into law in December.
“A week to 10 days ago, I sent a letter to all of our members asking just that question. It was a very detailed survey asking how what they are doing with the tax cut dividend,” Timmons told TheDCNF. “We are just starting to get responses, but by and large those responses are very uplifting.”
“We are seeing a lot of companies say they are going to invest in new plants and equipment. In the early survey returns we have (only a handful), we’ve seen a commitment to increase their charitable giving by over half a billion dollars. We’ve seen this in all sizes of our members. They will also be hiring more and paying more in benefits.”
NAM expects that once the survey is complete in the coming weeks, the charitable giving figure will be well into the billions. The same goes for investment figures, wage increases and new hires.
Those results might not come as a surprise to those who were following the sector closely during tax reform debate.
NAM’s December 2017 member survey showed that roughly 95 percent of respondents expressed a positive outlook for the future of their company, driven by the belief that Congress and the administration would deliver a comprehensive tax reform bill. Manufacturers also expected to increase capital investment, full-time employment and wages in the same survey.
NAM’s chairman David Farr, along with Timmons, were some of the loudest advocates for tax reform throughout the first year of Trump’s presidency. The pair argued that those who opposed reforming the U.S. tax code were defending an American manufacturing worker losing their job to a foreign competitor.
Timmons is about to embark on a 10-day, eight-state tour where he will meet with manufacturers, employees, community leaders and elected officials to discuss tax reform and infrastructure, but his main focus will be on the challenges the manufacturing sector faces in the coming years.
The first challenge Timmons notes is the lack of skilled workers in manufacturing.
“The ability of manufactures to find folks with the right skills. I think there are 400,000 unfilled jobs in manufacturing. We are predicting by the year 2025 that number could inflate (before you factor in tax and regulatory reform) to 2 million in the sector. That is devastating news for the economy,” Timmons told TheDCNF. “Our job on this tour is to highlight the types of jobs that are available in manufacturing.”
Deloitte noted that skills gap in a recent study. The researchers found that roughly 3.5 million manufacturing jobs will open up over the next decade, but, as Timmons said, some 2 million of those positions are likely to be left vacant.
Timmons will also explain how the narrative that manufacturing jobs are being taken away by automation isn’t accurate. The main challenge facing the sector is that they don’t have enough skilled workers to fill open jobs. He wants people to know that at the end of the day, manufacturing jobs aren’t going away, they are changing with the modern era. Modern manufacturing roles require some new age skills, like the ability to code. Timmons hopes the tour will help direct public policies and awareness towards the needs of the sector, which is teeming with open jobs for Americans.
He also pointed out that trial lawyers and litigation is another hinderance for growth in the sector.
“Another challenge is dealing with folks that may not have the most altruistic of motives. When they look to manufacturers, they try and cash in. I’m talking about the trial bar and trial lawyers. They are causing a number of issues for manufactures who are trying to operate business safely and fairly,” Timmons said. “The latest thing you are seeing are trail lawyers coming after cities to encourage them to divest from pension funds. Even worse, cities are suing manufactures on the issue of climate change.”
A final challenge facing manufacturers is the state of the nation’s infrastructure, which is deteriorating with every passing year.
“Our crumbling infrastructure is costing manufacturers billions of dollars a year. It is becoming extraordinarily difficult to deal with things like poor road conditions. It’s about $53 billion in additional freight costs every year because of those road conditions. we have additional losses because of poor structures at airports, ports and waterways,” Timmons said.
NAM plans to continue to work with the Trump administration to help push for the president’s $1.5 trillion infrastructure package.
Timmons will visit Michigan, Kentucky, Indiana, Alabama, New York, Kansas, California and Missouri on his tour, which kicks off Monday.
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