By Kip Eideberg, AEM Vice President, Government & Industry Relations

Ready to Work

Equipment manufacturers are a driving force in state economies. From supporting 1.3 million good-paying jobs to generating $159 billion a year for the overall U.S. economy, our industry helps keep state economies strong. That’s why it’s important for our state leaders to promote policies that encourage equipment manufacturers to continue to make investments across all 50 states.

As dozens of U.S. governors gather in Washington, D.C. this week for the National Governors Association’s (NGA) annual Winter Meeting, each one will have a new opportunity to discuss what is working and what could be working better in order for equipment manufacturers to continue to make investments, create jobs, and grow state economies.

Here are the three policy issues that equipment manufacturers believe should be top priorities for governors across the country:

1. Workforce Development: 2018-2019 NGA Chair and Montana Governor Steve Bullock’s initiative “Good Jobs for All Americans,” is going to be a focus of discussion during this year’s meeting. Gov. Bullock’s plan provides a strategic framework to address the rapid changes in technology and the skills required to perform jobs in the 21st century economy. Workforce development is an important topic for equipment manufacturers, especially when considering 2,000,000 positions could be left unfulfilled over the next decade in the manufacturing sector unless steps are taken to start filling the talent pipeline.  

That is why AEM developed a comprehensive plan and supporting set of materials to raise awareness of the great career opportunities our industry has to offer and to proactively attract new talent. For example, last year AEM launched a toolkit for manufacturers and industry partners to use when partnering with local schools and communities to recruit the next generation of skilled workers. The toolkit is just one component of AEM’s overall workforce development program, which also features a webinar series with subject matter experts addressing a range of topics such as hiring veterans, apprenticeships, and third-party partnerships, as well as a scholarship initiative for educators seeking certification to teach equipment-specific courses to high school students.

Equipment manufacturers are hard at work training the next generation of workers and are ready to work with Governors to help advance their workforce development initiatives.

2. Infrastructure: Reclaiming America’s infrastructure advantage continues to be a top priority for equipment manufacturers. It is also clearly a priority for governors.

During last year’s midterm elections, several candidates for governor made addressing their state’s infrastructure needs one of their top campaign promises. That included Illinois Governor JB Pritzker, Kansas Governor Laura Kelly, Maine Governor Janet Mills, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, and Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers. (Gov. Whitmer famously described her strategy as “Fix the Damn Roads”.)

Infrastructure continues to be on the minds of state leaders. In fact,
this month Minnesota Governor Tim Walz  addressed Members of Congress during a Capitol Hill hearing titled “The Cost of Doing Nothing: Why Investing in Our Nation’s Infrastructure Cannot Wait.” Also, during this week’s NGA Winter Meeting, former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell and Bill Shuster, former Chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, will lead an infrastructure roundtable discussing how governors can stay engaged at the federal level.

Central to the discussion about what to do on infrastructure is the question of how to pay for it. That means finding a long-term and sustainable funding mechanism for the Highway Trust Fund, which is the predominant vehicle for supporting federal investment in surface transportation infrastructure construction, maintenance and repair. The fund faces a projected shortfall because its primary revenue source – the gas tax – has not kept pace with inflation.

Funding certainty will allow the infrastructure construction industry to continue to help grow the U.S. economy. Specifically, transportation construction supports 48,000 manufacturing jobs every year and generates $508 billion a year in total economic activity. Now is the time to act. We can no longer afford to kick the infrastructure can further down the road.

This is why AEM continues to find ways to keep infrastructure top-of-mind for lawmakers, including launching a national advertising campaign titled “Start with Infrastructure” and co-hosting a Feb. 8 bipartisan panel of members of Congress and industry stakeholders to discuss the prospects for infrastructure in the 116th Congress (which aired on C-SPAN).

3. Trade Policy: Pro-growth trade policies keep the U.S. equipment manufacturing industry strong and our workers employed. 

The tariffs that have been placed on steel, aluminum, and components have raised the production costs for U.S. equipment manufacturers, have made their products less competitive domestically and internationally, and threaten to wipe out good-paying jobs across the country. To make matters even worse, retaliatory tariffs have been placed on U.S. agricultural commodities and equipment by our nation’s largest trading partners.

Americans for Free Trade recently found that the Trump Administration’s tariffs are costing businesses up to $2.7 billion each month and have caused exports of American products to plummet by 37 percent. While other countries’ discriminatory trade practices must be addressed, unilateral tariffs are not the right approach. It is more important than ever that states champion pro-manufacturing trade policies that make it easier for equipment manufacturers to compete in the global marketplace.

We wish all of the governors a successful couple of days in our nation’s capital, and look forward to continuing to work closely with all of them on these issues in 2019.

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