Manufacturers need bipartisan solutions – not political pandering: Ryan Augsburger

COLUMBUS, Ohio — It’s political season again.

That means that, in races for local, state, and federal offices, Ohio’s economy is front and center – and candidates are talking about manufacturing, the Buckeye State’s largest industry.

A recent example comes from Ohio’s U.S. Senate race. In a frequently aired TV ad, one candidate criticizes his opponent’s comment that a middle-aged, longtime manufacturing employee may not be able to find another well-paying job.

“We’re bringing manufacturing back,” the first candidate says. (The ad can be viewed online at https://tinyurl.com/y4we3fhd)

As president of The Ohio Manufacturers’ Association, I’m not in the business of running political campaigns. But as a full-time advocate of our industry, it’s my duty to offer the following reminders to those running for or currently holding public office:

1.) Today’s manufacturing careers are held by highly capable individuals, whose skills have been continuously enhanced through new training, credentials, and hands-on work with next-generation technology. These are in-demand professionals in the nation’s most in-demand industry – and they can readily find great jobs from one manufacturing employer to the next.

2.) Regarding the contention that anyone is “bringing back” manufacturing, it never went away. Manufacturing is – and always has been – the key to Ohio’s prosperity and America’s security.

Recent figures show Ohio’s manufacturing sector is responsible for nearly $125 billion of annual economic output. That’s a new record, up from $112 billion posted before the start of the pandemic.

At the same time, Ohio manufacturers currently provide around 680,000 jobs – even in the face of severe labor shortages. They provide an annual payroll of roughly $42 billion, the highest total wages of any economic sector in the state.

This success has not occurred by accident. In addition to the innovation, determination, and hard work of manufacturing leaders and employees, Ohio’s elected officials have played a key role by working closely with the manufacturing community – and often in a bipartisan manner.

Indeed, our state has been fortunate to have elected leaders who can set aside politics to find solutions that benefit the industry. Recent examples include bipartisan efforts by U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown, a Democrat, and Rob Portman, a Republican, to address the global semiconductor shortage and support the chip manufacturing facilities coming to Ohio.

Sens. Portman and Brown have also teamed up on legislation to strengthen U.S. trade remedy laws so our federal government can more effectively fight unfair trade practices that harm U.S. manufacturing.

While political campaigns may spotlight manufacturing, sound policy that enhances Ohio’s and America’s manufacturing competitiveness knows no party.

As this year’s campaign season continues to unfold, Ohioans employed in the manufacturing sector will be supporting candidates in both parties. All that manufacturers ask is for candidates to be well-informed on the issues that matter to the industry – like job training, affordable energy, infrastructure investment, and improved access to international markets.

While approaches to the issues will vary, it is imperative they are not politicized. We know from experience that potentially viable solutions can become inextricably linked to one political tribe, while becoming toxic to those in the opposing party.

The best way for political candidates to support Ohio manufacturers — their companies, employees, families, and communities — is not to fight over them, but to fight for them.

Ryan Augsburger is president of The Ohio Manufacturers’ Association, which represents approximately 1,500 manufacturers statewide.

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