Guest blog post by Acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank
I am back in my home state of Missouri today, so it is even more of a treat to witness firsthand the resurgence in American manufacturing. I visited two manufacturers today—the A. Zahner Company, in Kansas City, and Environmental Dynamics International (EDI), in Columbia—and had the chance to talk to some remarkable local businesses leaders and entrepreneurs in both cities.
Under President Obama’s leadership, and with the hard work of businesses and workers like those here in Missouri, our private sector has now seen 28 straight months of job growth—4.4 million jobs. Of course, there is more work to be done, but we are making progress in critical areas. Over the last two and one-half years, we’ve seen the strongest growth in manufacturing jobs since the 1990s. Missouri alone has gained nearly 9,000 new manufacturing jobs since 2010.
On top of that, manufacturers in states like Missouri are realizing that investing here at home is both the right thing to do and the smart thing to do. Many businesses—both here and abroad—are deciding to keep jobs here, bring jobs back to the U.S., or to set up operations here for the first time—a trend called “insourcing.”
We need to do everything possible to support businesses in places like Missouri that are thinking about insourcing. The Obama administration will continue to call on Congress to pass legislation to give our companies a tax break if they move operations and jobs back.
Of course, a globally competitive economy also requires a globally competitive workforce. That’s why this administration is focused on increasing the number of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) graduates. Over the past decade, growth in STEM jobs was three times as fast as non-STEM jobs, and these jobs pay about 25 percent more than others, providing greater economic security for working families. STEM workers also help ensure that our businesses can develop innovative, cutting-edge products, helping America stay competitive in a global economy.
In recent years, however, only about 13 percent of U.S. college graduates got degrees in the STEM fields, compared to 25 percent of students in competitor countries like Korea and Germany. Clearly, we have some work to do. That’s why the president’s 2013 budget invests $3 billion across the federal government in programs that promote STEM education, a three percent increase.
We are continuing to move forward with other efforts that build a strong environment for innovation and manufacturing in the U.S. For example, last September, the Commerce Department awarded this region nearly $2 million as seed money to help expand a cluster of businesses in advanced manufacturing and information technology. Meanwhile, our SelectUSA initiative is providing information needed to encourage foreign companies to choose America when deciding where to build their next factory and hire their next workers.
The continued strength of American manufacturing is vital to ensuring that our economy is built to last. We want more good, quality products stamped with Made in America, and we want more Americans proudly getting up each day to go to work at good jobs. In short, we want to see America retain its place as the most competitive leader in a global economy. At the Department of Commerce and throughout the administration, we are focused on helping American business and workers build it here and sell it everywhere.