File this under "What took you so long?" Bills have been introduced in both houses of Congress to craft a national manufacturing strategy intended to bolster domestic manufacturing, including establishing investment incentives that would help create jobs.

All it took was the loss of some 5.5 million factory jobs during the past decade, including many in the woodworking industry, to get the attention of our elected officials in Washington. Sad but true.

Both bills were announced on April 6, one by Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-IL), the other by Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH). While the two bills differ in approach, both are designed to identify ways to help U.S. manufacturers be more globally competitively. Perhaps most importantly, the bills would put shine a national spotlight on the challenges and opportunities of American industries.

Lipinski's National Manufacturing Strategy Act actually swept through the House by a 379-38 vote last year. His mach 2 version, H.R. 1366, would require the president to establish a Manufacturing Strategy Board (MSB). It would consist of not only federal officials, but also two state governors from different parties and representatives from the manufacturing sector. The MSB would be conduct a comprehensive analysis of the entire manufacturing base every four years and issue recommendations to Capitol Hill for improving the competitiveness of U.S. manufacturing companies.

“Just last month came the news that China has seized the title of the world’s leading goods producer, ending America’s 110-year reign.," Lipinski said. "Yet no plan with broad support and real momentum currently exists for growing American manufacturing and reversing the offshoring that has been killing the middle class. That’s why we need to develop a manufacturing strategy and follow through on its recommendations."

Whereas Lipinski's bill would create the MSB and include input from manufacturing leaders, Sen. Brown's National Manufacturing Strategy Act of 2011 calls for the Commerce Secretary to conduct a comprehensive analysis of the nation’s manufacturing sector and submit to Congress a National Manufacturing Strategy. The report should include an assessment of U.S. manufacturing capacity, including what goods are produced, where they are produced, and in which sectors the U.S. is most competitive. The goals of the Strategy are to increase U.S. manufacturing jobs, identify emerging technologies to strengthen U.S. competitiveness, and strengthen the manufacturing sectors in which the U.S. is most competitive.

"The manufacturing industry helped build our middle class and must lead our nation's economic recovery," Brown said. "If we're going to out-compete and out-innovate other countries, it will require a national manufacturing strategy. The United States has been without one, and our economy has paid the price. We are seeing manufacturing help lead us out of the recession, but we need a sustained strategy to ensure long-term growth and job creation."

While I prefer with Lipinski's idea of including the private sector in the intelligence gathering and dissemination process, I could live with Brown's.

I think Lipinski hit the nail on the head when he said, "Other countries take a far more aggressive and coordinated approach to bolstering their manufacturing sectors, while America has allowed our manufacturing base to wither. We need to change that right now and adopt a strategy for revitalizing American manufacturing that creates jobs and helps make us the leading producer of high-value goods for decades to come. Leaving manufacturing to other countries and becoming an entirely service-based economy is clearly not the way to keep America strong. Losing manufacturing means losing your competitive edge, especially in high-tech industries where process innovation is key to product innovation."

It's about time that U.S. manufacturing gets its due. Anyone disagree with that?
 
Read more of Rich Christianson's blogs.

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