In uncertain economic times, it's inspiring to see that the top executive of a leading American company has written a book titled Make It in America.
The 208-page book — subtitled The Case for Re-Inventing the Economy — is the handiwork of Andrew Liveris, chairman and CEO of Dow Chemical Co.
Dow, based in Midland, Mich., ranks as one of the world's largest plastics and chemicals makers. Almost one-third of its $46.6 billion sales total in 2009 came from the U.S. The firm provides more than 24,000 U.S. jobs — almost half of the company's global total. So it's safe to say that Dow has quite a bit riding on the 50 states' ability to remain a going concern.
And what can be more inclusive and 21st century-sounding than a pro-America argument being made by an Australian of Greek heritage such as Liveris? He may have written the book while relaxing in a melting pot.
In Make It in America, Liveris spells out the challenges facing American manufacturing. He argues in favor of a national economic policy, one that will make it easier for manufacturing to thrive here as it once did. He stresses over and over again the importance of manufacturing because of the number of jobs it creates both on its own and in related sectors. This “multiplier effect” is much greater in manufacturing than it is in other industries.
Higher corporate tax rates, as well as a shifting web of federal and state regulations, also increase the difficulty factor for firms that want to do business in the U.S., according to Liveris, a 33-year Dow veteran who took the reins as CEO in 2004. Other nations — such as Germany, Spain and China — also have national energy policies that are more conducive to the manufacturing sector than what's available in the U.S., he writes.
Liveris also argues against the widely accepted belief that lower wages abroad have been the biggest factor in jobs moving from the U.S. to other countries, saying that the much-higher productivity of U.S. manufacturing plants “substantially narrows the gap.”
The commitment that both Liveris and Dow are showing to U.S. manufacturing should be widely recognized within the U.S. plastics industry, since, even in this age of diversification, Dow generates about 40 percent of its global sales from plastics-related businesses. The firm ranks as one of the world's largest polyethylene makers and also is active in numerous specialty plastics. In August, Dow announced it would be adding more than half-a-billion pounds of polyolefin elastomer capacity at three sites worldwide, including one in Freeport, Texas.
Dow also confirmed its commitment to the plastics market at a news event it hosted in Midland on Nov. 1. The company addressed some of its recent restructuring of its plastics business, with plastics and hydrocarbons group President Jim Fitterling saying that “Where [Dow is] now, is in the right range of plastics.”
In his book, Liveris tackles many big-picture topics. He's asking a lot of important questions, questions that will need to be answered if America's manufacturing base wants to survive and thrive.
Esposito is an Akron, Ohio-based Plastics News senior reporter.