After spending a few days in our nation's capital last month with fellow American Mold Builders Association members during the annual fall conference, it is clear that the organization has strengthened its message to elected officials about the need for a strong manufacturing base, and that the folks in Washington are finally starting to listen.
This is the third year AMBA members have held their fall conference in Washington and the second year that members have actually walked the halls of Congress to personally meet with their respective senators and representatives and/or their aides. Compared to last year, when the idea of stepping foot in an elected official's office was new and seemed intimidating to many, this year there was an air of confidence and strength within the five delegate teams. So, armed with speaking points, voting records and our agendas, we set forth to convey the following top challenges mold makers face and ask for assurances that our elected officials will take action on them:
* Competition from penny-wage, regulation-free, active-subsidizer economies.
* Skilled-employee shortage and aging workforce.
* Lack of business credit and access to credit.
* Rising health-care costs.
* Rising tax burdens.
What did AMBA members come away with? I am not the only conference attendee who came away feeling that progress had been made — even while knowing that more work must be done to ensure our government understands the importance of enacting policies that will revitalize U.S. manufacturing, in particular those policies that will help small to midsize companies.
One attendee from the Michigan contingent who has attended the conference all three years said he felt this was the first time AMBA members did not have to waste time explaining who they are and what their role in manufacturing is. The elected officials and their aides knew and they were receptive. “The general consensus on the Hill was that every industrialized nation has a plan for manufacturing except America,” he said. “It creates wealth and it's the backbone to every economy. I think they are finally realizing that.”
An AMBA member from the Southeast delegation who also has attended the conference all three years said, “I think we had a better and clearer message. I was encouraged to see that both of our senators and most of the aides we met with seemed to get it that manufacturing needs to stay here in the U.S. But my guess is that change won't happen unless it's forced to.”
A member from the Illinois delegation stated, “Last year we were the unwanted industry. This year they seemed genuinely interested in us.”
Another member offered the following observation: “This was my first time in Washington and I'm very upbeat about what I observed. I'm not sure they were aware, until we told them, about our rapidly aging workforce and the urgent need to develop young talent in our industry.”
Most attendees agreed that the AMBA must continue to forge ahead in its efforts to make a difference in Washington. But one visit a year isn't going to cut it. There has to be continued communication year-round and the AMBA must further strengthen its message. Work has already begun, and ideas are being shared about how to sustain the momentum and get more AMBA members involved in the process. A link to access a downloadable summary of the AMBA list of issues shared with elected officials can be found at www.amba.org on the government relations page.
Building on this heightened awareness, perhaps it's time for the AMBA to draft its own bill that will force a “thumbs up or thumbs down” position to be taken on the issues its members know matter most. After all, politicians are talking of jobs creation and getting the country working again. Voting records should follow suit.
Kustush is public relations coordinator for Progressive Components International Corp. of Waucanda, Ill., and PCIC Group of Cos.