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Andringa and Oberhelman: Manufacturing Can Unite Us

We have made the trip from Pella, Iowa, and Peoria, Ill., to the nation’s capital this week to advocate solutions that can turn the economy around and move us toward a more prosperous future.

And we’re not alone.

More than 300 manufacturers have descended on Capitol Hill for the 2012 Manufacturing Summit, the official fly-in event of the National Association of Manufacturers.

Taking time away from our plants is a sacrifice for manufacturers. But in today’s competitive global marketplace, our jobs extend far beyond the walls of our factories. Manufacturing today also entails advocacy — advocacy about the promise of manufacturing and what it will take to bring about a manufacturing renaissance in the United States.

But it’s a necessity if we want to get the economy on track and put Americans back to work. Washington may be unpopular, but we still need it to work for us — and manufacturers have solutions that can break the gridlock.

Getting things done in Washington doesn’t have to be as difficult as people perceive it, especially because Republicans and Democrats agree on a number of issues. Manufacturers are taking commonsense messages to Capitol Hill in an effort to build on these areas of agreement and chart a path forward.

Manufacturers, whether they pay taxes at the corporate or individual level, want to fix the tax code and make it competitive. Members of both parties agree that the tax code is too lengthy and complex and speak favorably about tax reform. We’re encouraged by the attention tax reform has received and the serious proposals on the table for discussion. We want to encourage that process to continue and result in competitive tax policy.

Congress has not made a significant change to corporate tax rates in 25 years, and now the United States has the highest corporate tax rate among developed nations. We need comprehensive business tax reform that will lower tax rates and provide certainty for all businesses. We also need to move to a competitive territorial tax system in line with other major industrialized nations.

Manufacturers are also talking to their Members of Congress about the need for an “all of the above” energy strategy, a concept that President Barack Obama endorsed in his State of the Union address. North America has abundant energy reserves, and it’s time for policymakers to stop placing these resources off-limits. Without reliable and affordable energy, manufacturers, who use one-third of the energy produced in the United States, will face obstacles in competing with our rivals abroad.

And manufacturers are discussing the challenges they face finding workers with the skills required in modern manufacturing. Millions of Americans are looking for work. Meanwhile, 600,000 manufacturing jobs are going unfilled because of a lack of skilled workers. Congress has created a number of job-training programs. Why not make sure these programs are providing workers with the skills needed to fill open manufacturing jobs?

Washington can’t solve every problem. We shouldn’t expect it to — nor should we want it to. But where the federal government has a role to play, manufacturers must be engaged.

Mary Andringa is president and CEO of the Vermeer Corp. and chairwoman of the board of the National Association of Manufacturers. Doug Oberhelman is chairman and CEO of Caterpillar Inc. and vice chairman of NAM.

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