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Stabenow Says ‘We Need to Be Making Things in America’

December 2, 2021 by Kate Michael
Stabenow Says ‘We Need to Be Making Things in America’

WASHINGTON — Over the last decades, the United States has hollowed out its industrial sector, continuing to focus on research and development but turning to other countries to actually produce much of what is needed to maintain a modern functioning society. Effects of the pandemic, however, upended supply chains and generated a fervor for things to be made in America again.

“We don’t have an economy unless somebody makes something or grows something,” Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., told the news website Axios during a recent discussion of how new technology and sustainability commitments could create an American manufacturing renaissance.

While there is skepticism that the country can revert back to its manufacturing roots, proponents say tax policies and investments would help, and in the meantime, a lot of American ingenuity can be used to update national industries. 

Stabenow, who described manufacturing as her “passion,” saw firsthand how the global supply chain disruption affected her state’s automobile industry, which, like so many others, used just-in-time manufacturing to take advantage of its efficiencies. 

“But when you have a global pandemic and the entire economy of the world as well as our country is shut down, you realize that it doesn’t work if you’re not making enough of those parts here in the United States,” Stabenow said.

“We [have] deep problems because of the pandemic, and we are laser-focused at addressing them.”

Some recent industry corrections have centered around treating inventory management differently, accelerating digitalization of operations, and using data to create efficiencies, as well as virtual reality programs that take time out of some processes that may delay production. Parts manufacturing, however, remains a primary concern.

Worried that over half of the semiconductors made for electronics are sourced from Taiwan, which led automakers and others to scramble, sometimes even shutting downshifts and plants, Stabenow introduced the CHIPS Act as part of a Senate Innovation Bill, which also funds new facilities for American-built semiconductors, or places to make such chips in the U.S.

She also is an author of a 25% investment tax credit which could incentivize plants to make semiconducting parts as part of the Biden administration’s Build Back Better proposal.

Since FABS take years to be built, she hopes incentives like these could spur faster action for more rapid results, with the goal to locate critical supplies where the U.S. can access them.

“When you shut down this type of operation and then work on getting it up and going again, it’s not like turning on a switch,” Stabenow admitted. “I’m doing everything I can to ensure that we are making these parts and other things [for] clean energy manufacturing in the United States. At the same time, we have to figure out who else around the world can be suppliers in the meantime.” 

While for comparative advantage the U.S. turned to other countries for much of its manufacturing prior to the pandemic, Stabenow is now pushing for greater parts manufacturing in-country, though nearshoring (geographically attractive partnerships) and friend-shoring (allied or like-minded nation partnerships) for trade needs were identified as the next best alternatives.

Manufacturing, as it advances, remains an important part of the U.S. economy, not only for its ability to provide jobs, but to shore up the national defense, she argued, “and is part of what’s important for us in terms of leading the world.”

“It’s an opportunity,” she said, “and it’s a wake-up call for us as a country that we need to be making things in America.”

Kate can be reached at [email protected].

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