President-elect Trump's unorthodox style of industrial policy — tweets aimed at specific manufacturing companies, like Carrier or Boeing — have been getting all the public and media attention, even before he takes office.
But it's the possibility of changes in the more traditional levers of government policy — through new laws and regulations, and putting key people in position at agencies — that also has manufacturing groups in Washington jockeying for influence.
Whatever people think about the incoming president and his unusual approaches, Trump has signaled a willingness to challenge orthodoxy around government policy.
With that in mind, I wanted to look at some of the ideas floating around for what a manufacturing policy might look like.
Paul Tate from the Manufacturing Leadership Council at Frost & Sullivan walks through some of the different ideas surfacing.
There's the more traditional National Association of Manufacturers approach. They've put out a detailed list of policies.
Vice President-elect Mike Pence met with NAM leaders Dec. 8, where, according to NAM, Pence asked for advice on regulations to cut, as part of a wide-ranging conversation with NAM about how to grow manufacturing.
As well, Stephen Gold at the Manufacturers Alliance for Productivity and Innovation advocates a series of tax, immigration and regulatory changes, along with infrastructure investment and entitlement reform.
But there are other ideas. The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation put out a report last month looking at public policy options that could help manufacturers better adopt information technology and get an advantage against global competitors with Industry 4.0.
Smart manufacturing — the application of information technologies to manufacturing processes — is poised to transform how products are designed, Tate and Gary Mintchell from the Manufacturing Connection also highlight an interesting idea from a now-retired former Rockwell Automation executive and former Vice Chairman of the Smart Manufacturing Leadership Coalition, John Bernaden.
Bernaden, speaking just for himself, has proposed taking some of the $2 trillion to $3 trillion estimated to be held overseas by U.S. corporations, and if it is repatriated as Trump has suggested he plans to pursue, using the money to finance low-interest industrial bonds to help factories upgrade and automate.
Too much remains in flux with the new administration to make specific predictions but the petrochemical and plastics industries have fared well in the initial appointments.
With ExxonMobil Chairman and CEO Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State, auto parts mogul and investor Wilbur Ross as Secretary of Commerce and Dow Chairman and CEO Andrew Liveris heading a new American Manufacturing Council, the plastics industry executives will have more than their usual seats at the table as talks heat up.