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Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Waging a Manufacturing Campaign

California manufacturers are the best in the world and we need more of them. I recently heard a Los Angeles area manufacturing employee, David Macias, say the following about his employer, California Custom Fruits and Flavors: “I’ve been here for 10 years and I am now a production supervisor. This company supports my five kids, my wife and me. I am happy here because the pay is good and the benefits are great. And the people I work with aren’t just employees, they are like family. I love it here.” David Macias is proud of his company and enjoys his work in manufacturing. He has opportunities many workers in the San Fernando Valley wish they had, and he supports a large family with high manufacturing wages and benefits. How can we get more of these jobs in the Valley and California? The good news is that many manufacturers are making the choice to come back to the United States. Due to rising foreign labor costs and lax intellectual property protections, many manufacturers are “re-shoring” their operations from China and other locations. Low-cost natural gas from our technologically driven energy boom is almost enough by itself to tip the balance in favor of U.S. production. States are competing to be the best place for new manufacturing plants. They hear stories like David Macias’ and they realize that manufacturing is the best way to create wealth and high-wage jobs. Manufacturing provides a region a powerful and sustainable one-two-three punch of research, innovation and production. California is proof of that. Our modern economy was built by manufacturers after World War II because of our talented workforce, affordable housing and wonderful climate. Aerospace and defense spending was the foundation of California’s manufacturing strength with great companies such as Boeing, Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin. Los Angeles rivaled only Detroit for automobile production during the 1960s. Another manufacturing juggernaut was launched in the ’70s and ’80s with Silicon Valley startups such as Intel, Hewlett-Packard and Apple. Great jobs were created by these companies. California, and particularly Los Angeles County, the biggest manufacturing hub in the nation, should be top contenders to attract millions of dollars in new manufacturing investment. The state’s world-class universities, research facilities, international ports and close access to suppliers should give us a leg up in the competition for new investments. I know that California, and Los Angeles, can win the fight for more manufacturing jobs – if we choose to compete. That’s a big “if.” The recent trends are not good. Last year California received only 1.5 percent of national manufacturing investment – not nearly enough to sustain our 11 percent share of the national manufacturing economy. Other states are convincing firms that they are the best place to do business. Since the United States began to emerge from the great recession in 2010, the U.S. has regained more than 6 percent of its manufacturing jobs. Unfortunately, California has only grown manufacturing jobs by less than 0.5 percent. It’s even worse in Los Angeles County where we lost an additional 5 percent of our manufacturing jobs. We can turn these numbers around if manufacturing supporters make their voice heard in Sacramento. We’ve launched our “Champions of Manufacturing” campaign to make it easy to send a message to state leaders that you want more manufacturing jobs and investment in California. Everyone, including workers, companies, family members and local citizens are invited to join our Champions program to ask elected officials to support policies that will help more manufacturers create jobs in California. This year we are recognizing California Custom Fruits and Flavors and six other California manufacturers for their innovation, growth and productive workers. Their success proves that California has what it takes to become a manufacturing powerhouse again. All we need is your voice added to the thousands already joining the effort. You can join CMTA’s Champions campaign by giving us your e-mail address at cmta.net. Jack Stewart is the President of the California Manufacturers & Technology Association, a trade group representing state manufacturers.

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