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Remarks at Manufacturing Summit, Orlando, Florida

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker
Remarks at Manufacturing Summit, Orlando, Florida

Thank you, Bill Simon and Governor Scott. It’s great to be in Orlando with Walmart suppliers, business leaders, and economic development organizations. It’s also great to be here with governors Beebe, Bryant, Haley, LePage, Martinez, Otter, and Tomblin. You’ve got a great lineup.

I want to thank Bill, Mike Duke and everyone at Walmart for convening this summit. Let’s all recognize Walmart’s commitment to buy an additional $50 billion in U.S. products over the next 10 years. That deserves a round of applause.

Walmart’s leaders know what President Obama and I know – and what everyone in this room knows: It’s an exciting time to be an American manufacturer.

As someone who comes from a family of entrepreneurs, it should be no surprise that manufacturing is part of my DNA. For nearly six decades, my family built the Marmon Group, a group of companies that make electrical and industrial components and transportation equipment. I served on its board for 10 years.

My Uncle Bob led Marmon for almost 50 years. He also served as Chair of National Association of Manufacturers. He understood – and often told me – how important it is for our country to make things. I could not agree more.

Here’s the good news. Today, companies like yours are making and selling great products around the world at an all-time record pace. Made in America is stronger than ever.

Just two weeks ago, I announced that we broke yet another record in U.S. exports in the first half of this year – more than $1.1 trillion dollars worth. To put that in perspective, that’s more than we exported for the entire year in 2003 – just a decade ago.

In addition, instead of losing manufacturing jobs as we had for many years, American manufacturers have now added over half-a-million jobs since January 2010.

And, just this week, we got even more good news. The Economics and Statistics Administration at the Commerce Department analyzed these new manufacturing jobs from 2010 and 2011. New hires in manufacturing had 38 percent higher monthly earnings than those in other sectors. So what’s clear is this: America’s new manufacturing jobs are good-paying jobs.

The Commerce Department will continue to play a lead role in supporting growth in manufacturing and expansion of exports. I’ll give two quick examples.

First, I’m sure that some of you are familiar with our Manufacturing Extension Partnership program. We have about 1,300 experts across the country working with small manufacturers to help them solve problems and stay competitive. Through MEP, we help incorporate new technologies into their production process, we create tailored training for their workers, and we help ensure that they stay connected to a strong and effiective supply chain.

A second example is our International Trade Administration. Every day, our commercial service officers help U.S. manufacturers break into new markets and compete for contracts abroad. In fact, I’m leading my first trade mission in November – to Mexico. I encourage you to apply to join me.

Your Commerce Department will continue to put these kinds of powerful tools and data in your hands.

But the reason I’m most excited to be here is this: We’re entering a new era of opportunity to boost U.S. manufacturing. In the coming months and years, the magnetic pull to build here and hire here will only get stronger.

For starters, our banking system has stabilized, our stock market has passed pre-recession highs, and our housing market is coming back. Those are crucial building blocks for our economy.

On top of that, American consumers have been healing their personal balance sheets. They’re starting to regain traction. The Commerce Department just announced that retail sales increased for the fourth consecutive month.

Those factors alone are compelling for CEOs from any sector who are looking to start or increase their investments in the U.S. For manufacturing, in particular, there are even more reasons to make it in America.

Abundant and affordable American energy is a powerful reason. America now imports less than half the oil we consume, down from 60 percent in 2005. And our dramatic jumps in natural gas production over the past five years have led to prices just one-third that of Europe. 

Our educated and productive workforce is also highly attractive. Wages in countries like China have increased more than 10 percent each year for the past decade, reducing the labor-cost advantages they once had. Meanwhile, the output of American workers is about 9 percent higher than it was before the recession.

In addition, through our trade agreements, the U.S. has access to about 700 million people representing $7 trillion in combined GDP. Both domestic and foreign-based manufacturers want to take advantage of those strong global ties.

All of this builds on what we’ve known for decades: The U.S. has the best universities, the strongest R&D hubs, the gold standard of IP protections, and the most vibrant culture of entrepreneurship in the world.

But perhaps most importantly, manufacturers around the world want to be located near other innovative companies and suppliers who can work with them to drive innovation. In other words, they want to be near people like you.

They’re hearing more each day about the high quality of your work, your cost-competitiveness, and the benefits of being close to our strong consumer base. They know that they need to have a presence in the country where the best ideas and latest technologies are being discovered and commercialized. 

That’s happening here in America. Therefore, my message to manufacturers – both here and abroad – is simple: America is open for business. 

To prove we mean that, we’re hosting the U.S. government’s first-ever SelectUSA Investment Summit on October 31st and November 1st in Washington, DC. As a business leader, I know that bringing people together in one room – face-to-face – is crucial.

As we enter this unique period of opportunity in which American manufacturing has a distinct advantage, we need to provide more opportunities for deals to get done – just like Walmart is doing here at this event. 

At the SelectUSA Investment Summit, we’ll have top experts explain the whys and hows of investing in the United States. We’ll talk about America’s key advantages in manufacturing as well as other sectors like IT and energy. And we’ll make matches between CEOs and economic development officers at the state and local level.

I’m thrilled that Bill will be joining us at the Summit, along with other top CEOs. I’ll also be joined by Secretaries John Kerry and Jack Lew, as well as Ambassador Mike Froman, the U.S. Trade Representative. And I’m pleased to announce today – so far – economic development organizations from over 20 states are coming to the summit. I hope that all of you will join us there, too. You can register for the summit at

In closing, I’ve had the chance to meet with a number of manufacturers as part of my listening tour over the past two months. Their stories have a common thread: they’ve come through some tough years, but today they’re poised to compete, to drive innovation, and to create good jobs once again.

My commitment is that the Commerce Department is going to do everything we can to support all of them – and all of you. We at the Commerce Department view our mission as protecting, promoting, anticipating, and informing what businesses like yours need to be competitive and innovative in the 21st century.

I look forward to working with companies like Walmart and this community as you build great products, strengthen our middle class, and send a clear message to the world that the time to build and hire in America is now.