President Donald Trump met with prominent U.S. manufacturers today (2/23/17) as he works on a plan to bring back American manufacturing jobs. Offering no specific plan, he continued to discuss possible courses of action with the 24 CEO’s. Collectively, these business leaders employ 2 million people at companies worth over $1 trillion in market value.
Before the meeting began, the CEO’s broke into working groups on the second floor of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. This is part of an initiative spearheaded by senior adviser Jared Kushner. They discussed infrastructure, tax and trade, regulatory reform and the modern manufacturing workforce. The individual groups each had one Cabinet-level official servicing as a moderator while they brainstormed ideas.
Vice President Mike Pence, stopped by each of the groups to offer some input. During the infrastructure meeting, lead by Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and chief economic adviser Gary Cohn, Pence joined in on the conversation calling for “innovative” financing efforts to help get some of the major infrastructure projects off the ground. One administration official used Canada as an example as they revamped their air traffic control system using public-private partnerships and called for these kinds of initiatives to be undertaken by the United States.
Workforce of the Future
The Workforce of the Future group is something that manufacturers both small and large can get behind. The industry continues to struggle with a skills gap and local initiatives from around the country have been working vigorously to educate the public about the modern manufacturing industry and the careers available. Ivanka Trump, Commerce Secretary-designee Wilbur Ross and Small Business Administration chief Linda McMahon spearheaded the conversation. One CEO explained how it was necessary to make manufacturing jobs more desirable when it comes to young people. The group also praised European-style apprenticeship programs. Fixing the public’s perceptions about the manufacturing industry and offering more apprenticeship programs is undoubtedly the best way to address the skills gap that continues to plague the industry.
Tax and Trade
The Tax and Trade group lead by economist Peter Navarro and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin looked for inspiration from other major manufacturing countries. Germany was their primary focus because of their robust manufacturing sector, able to coexist with high wages.
There may not be an actionable plan in place as of now, however these meetings aren’t fruitless. Collaboration is a proven system that helps inspire innovative thinking. Being able to discuss new ideas with major manufacturing leaders could offer new ideas that government officials may have overlooked. Business leaders have a different way of looking at situations when compared to politicians. Giving them a voice and direct contact to the president may lead the manufacturing industry toward a brighter future.