What manufacturers' past four years mean for the next four years
© Getty Images

Over the past four years, manufacturers achieved some of the industry’s most significant policy victories in a generation. At the top of the list is tax reform, which unleashed a tidal wave of manufacturing investment, hiring and increased wages and benefits. Coupled with the regulatory clarity delivered by the Trump administration, manufacturers’ competitiveness soared and so did their optimism — hitting record highs in mid-2018. And the strong, bipartisan approval of the U.S.–Mexico–Canada Agreement provided manufacturers certainty and cemented our most important trading relationship.

As all of these policies and many others were debated, manufacturers had a seat at the table thanks to the focused leadership of the National Association of Manufacturers. We ensured that lawmakers heard the voices of manufacturers, especially small and medium-sized companies, and shaped policies according to manufacturers’ needs and concerns. We were successful not because we played politics — quite the opposite. We focused resolutely on policy. That’s become our mantra at the NAM: we are about policy — not politics, personality or process.

That is why we are optimistic about the next four years as well. A new administration will certainly bring new viewpoints and a new direction. But manufacturing will remain a top priority. President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenHouse Democrat threatens to vote against party's spending bill if HBCUs don't get more federal aid Overnight Defense & National Security — The Pentagon's deadly mistake Haitians stuck in Texas extend Biden's immigration woes MORE made that clear on the campaign trail, and many manufacturing-intensive states were critical to his electoral victory.

ADVERTISEMENT

So the NAM will work with the new administration and the new Congress with the same successful approach we took over the past four years — and we will push back strongly when needed, as we did when we took the current administration to court on certain issues related to trade and immigration. We will defend tax reform and continue to advocate a stable and efficient regulatory environment, by telling the story of what these competitive policies have meant for the success of the American worker. We will also work with the Biden team on areas where we have common ground, the most important of which right now is our resolute focus on overcoming the pandemic. Some other areas of partnership will be workforce development, immigration reform, expanded trade, smart environmental action and more.

A major opportunity — and one for true bipartisan progress — is infrastructure. Before the pandemic, we needed at a minimum a bold $1 trillion investment in roads, bridges, ports, waterways, electric grid, telecommunications and more — just to start catching up with the rest of the world. A larger and more substantial $2 trillion investment over 10 years would not just catapult our economic recovery forward but also significantly strengthen manufacturers’ competitiveness. Remember: it’s hard to compete with the rest of the world when your highways are more clogged and your internet is slower.

Of course, fighting COVID-19 is itself an economic policy. Our industry will not recover fully or reach its full potential until the virus is finally under control. The vaccines that our great pharmaceutical manufacturers have pioneered will go a long way — but that is still months off. So one of the first orders of business for the new administration will be leading us out of what will be a very dark and deadly winter. Here, too, manufacturers are ready to be trusted partners. We know President-elect Biden is committed to following science, and so are we — because sound science makes good policy.

The transition of power is a time of change for our country and our industry. But for the NAM, one thing will not change — our commitment to putting policy over politics and making progress for the men and women who make things in America.

Jay Timmons is CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers.