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From The Editor

Want Jobs? Get Manufacturing

James M. Borneman, Editor In Chief

L istening to politicians and policy pundits go on and on about how they are going to create jobs is getting really annoying. If you want to create jobs, smooth the way for US manufacturing. Focus on reducing business risk and uncertainty; enforce existing trade laws and eliminate fraud; and how about creating a tax structure that rewards and incentivizes investment in people, plant and R&D?

Though many of Textile World 's readers are in the middle of incredible struggles, many are poised to respond to the slightest bright spot. This has been a year of making difficult decisions, of reducing and closing operations, of laying off long-term, skilled employees - and nobody finds that rewarding.

At the same time, few are looking for a handout. Many resent the government's willingness to select certain sectors of the economy to support with taxpayer dollars, while others -- in many ways just as or more significant to the country's welfare -- don't receive any level of reprieve. Even CIT's challenges created another barrier for textile trade -- lack of trade finance.

And, although the United States doesn't have a domestic manufacturing policy, plan or agenda - investing in US manufacturing is good policy on many levels. It solves many problems. Most manufacturers provide above-average wages, they tend to provide healthcare benefits, and the manufacturing environment has improved dramatically over time.

The prevailing elitist attitude that US manufacturing isn't necessary, isn't the future and isn't a key component in US economic recovery seemingly defies the law of gravity. The math seems simple. As NCTO President Cass Johnson testified recently to an interagency group in Washington,  "... over the last ten years, one in four manufacturing jobs has been lost, over five million jobs in total, the sharpest drop in our nation's history."  He added that 1.1 million manufacturing jobs have disappeared since the Obama administration took office - one out of every 11 jobs in that sector.

Skip the politics -- if you want real jobs, incentivize US manufacturing. In textiles, the opportunities range from ultra-high-tech applications to basic essential components - some of which are significant to the more than 8,000 products sold to the US military.

The math? Well, pick the number -- five million jobs, 1.1 million jobs -- that void can't be filled by working at the mall, fast-food joint or big-box retailer. It is about starting a restorative process that is more than creating a couple "green" jobs. It's about putting real incentives in place that focus on making things of value in the US and consuming them or exporting them.

At a recent open house at a German machine manufacturer's facility here in the US, one of the owners, after speaking about years of successful supply and service to the US textile industry, alluded to the decline of the industry. His voice trailed off as he observed that the government was either not interested or for some other reason failed to see the need to promote US textiles. His disappointment was real, and as a global player, more amazingly, he seemed simply baffled at the lack of attention to something so significant.Why aren't more people baffled?

November/December 2009