Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley today continued his ongoing “Made in Oregon” tour by visiting AmFor Electronics in Portland to call on Congress to pass the “Made in America” Manufacturing Act. This legislation would focus on boosting manufacturing in America instead of standing by while jobs continue to be shipped overseas.

 

“Last year when I traveled across Oregon as part of my ‘Made in Oregon’ tour, I heard from company after company that we need to support manufacturing in America by focusing on workforce training and providing access to capital. This legislation does just that,” said Merkley. “It is all too clear, if we don’t build things in America, we won’t have a middle class in America.”

 

To grow Oregon and U.S. manufacturing, the “Made in America” Manufacturing Act, creates a competitive program awarding states and regions with funding to support local manufacturers through low-interest loans to build new facilities and upgrade equipment. Funding would also go towards job training and vocational education programs that partner businesses with colleges, local workforce centers and other skill providers to prepare workers for manufacturing jobs. The legislation also provides technical assistance in developing export opportunities and connecting small manufacturers with larger companies.

 

“As an Oregon manufacturer who competes in the global economy, it is important that we take steps to strengthen and grow the manufacturing that we already have here in Oregon and hopefully create opportunities for more manufacturing in the future,” said Jerry Koopman, President and CEO of AmFor Electronics. “Anything we can do to create more American manufacturing jobs is a great idea.”

The “Made in America” Manufacturing Act would allow localities to use funding to: 

 Set up a revolving loan fund to help manufacturing businesses expand or establish new manufacturing operations. According to a Commerce Department report, the lack of available capital to manufacturers has especially restricted the ability of many small manufacturers to grow and compete.  Without equipment upgrades and expansions, Oregon’s manufacturing sector will continue to lose its competitive edge in the global economy.

 In an effort to retool Oregon manufacturers to be more competitive and create new jobs, the revolving loan fund would provide manufacturers with direct access to low-interest loans that are below market rate to construct new facilities or to retool, retrofit or expand existing plants, including equipment, infrastructure or energy efficiency upgrades. The federal investment could also help leverage matching funds from the private sector and other non-federal sources. 

 Create job training programs to help address the skills gap faced by our manufacturers. By working with community colleges, vocational education programs and job training providers to tailor education and training programs to the skill needs of manufacturers, this program will focus on strategies that train workers for the jobs of the future, and creating more good-paying manufacturing jobs right here in the U.S.  

 According to a 2011 survey by the Manufacturing Institute, more than 600,000 manufacturing jobs went unfilled due to a shortage of skilled workers. A 2012 survey noted that one-third of small businesses struggled to recruit employees with the needed education and training. The Made in America program would ensure federal funds are invested in job training partnerships to help directly meet the needs of local manufacturers. 

Enhance export opportunities by providing capital and technical assistance to manufacturers through supporting research and analysis of markets and countries with the greatest potential for expanding business as well as connecting innovative small manufacturers with larger companies as a supplier or to take advantage of government or private sector contracts.

 Under this legislation, successful applicants would be required to form a partnership board of key stakeholders including county and local governments, small and large manufacturers, labor organizations, higher education institutions, workforce training centers, and local chambers of commerce to pool state or regional resources and develop a strategy to expand opportunities for local manufacturing, spur job creation, and close the skills gap that has slowed the growth of many manufacturers.

 The Commerce and Labor Departments will evaluate applicants’ plans, also known as Manufacturing Enhancement Strategies, based on how the strategy will improve U.S. competitiveness and the expected economic return on investment, including job creation, cost savings by manufacturers, private investment that federal funding would help leverage, and how the proposal would address high unemployment and mass layoffs. Priority would be given to proposals that commit private sector and state or local matching funds and contributions on a one-to-one basis. The Departments would then work with winning localities to implement their plans.

National groups such as AFL-CIO, United Steelworkers, and the American Small Manufacturers’ Coalition also support the bill.