Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Agathon Associates' Comments at Meeting of U.S. Manufacturing Council

The United States Manufacturing Council met today at the Department of Commerce. David Trumbull, Principal, Agathon Associates, attended and submitted the following comments.

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I thank the Council for this opportunity to submit public comments. I am a consultant to the textile industry. My clients are engaged at every stage of textile manufacturing in the United States, from fiber processing through finished articles. I am pleased to note that since the establishment of the Council in 2004, the textile industry has been represented among its members, including, currently, by Warwick Mills of New Ipswich, New Hampshire. No discussion of manufacturing in America is complete without including our first industry, the textile industry. According to the American Textile History Museum in Lowell, Massachusetts, Samuel Slater, by constructing a fully functional water-powered yarn spinning mill in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, in 1790, became known as the Father of the Industrial Revolution in America.

The quality and creativity of today's American textile industry makes this one of our newest industries as well; one that is attracting companies that desire to operate within the world's most desirable consumer market. In recent years we have seen a trend toward "reshoring" textile manufacturing and jobs. I am pleased to say that I played a small role in helping a new wool fabric-weaving mill open in Connecticut last year. In recent years there has also been investment in yarn spinning capacity in the United States.

However, the American textile industry faces obstacles to achieving full potential growth. According to my client Max Brickle, of the Brickle Group, Woonsocket, Rhode Island, "The problem is poorly educated workforce and [lack of] manufacturing skills." Mr. Brickle believes that workforce-training grants could be a great help. He also stated that our high schools and colleges should do more to direct students toward, and prepare them for, careers in manufacturing.

Don Rongione of Bollman Hat Company in Adamstown, Pennsylvania, echoed the need for grants for training when I recently spoke with him. He also called for grants for machinery purchases. One of Bollman's current projects is reshoring knit hat manufacturing. He believes that high quality manufacturing can be a strategy for America to compete internationally, but that we are limited due to lax enforcement of trading rules. According to Mr. Rongione, "We need government policy to police and penalize trade partners who violate currency and human rights for workers."

America has a very broad industrial base, nevertheless, we don't make everything, and therefore some inputs must be imported. For 30 years, from 1982 to 2012, Congress gave relief to manufacturers by suspending the import duties on products not domestically available. The current 114th Congress is the third Congress in a row to fail to pass a Miscellaneous Tariff Bill ("MTB") to promote American Manufacturing by eliminating tariffs that do not protect any American industry.

American textile manufacturers face additional obstacles, in the form of non-tariff barriers and lack of enforcement of intellectual property rights when they attempt to export their products.

With support in these critical areas of workforce development, trade law enforcement, tariff relief via the MTB, and international enforcement of intellectual property rights, the current trend of reshoring textile manufacturing jobs with continue and expand.

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