Recently, the Mid-South chapter of the Metals Service Center Institute (MSCI) held its 2012 Manufacturing Summit, “Closing the Divide Between Jobs, Policy and Growth.” The event, which was attended by 100 members and their customers, was moderated by MSCI President and CEO M. Robert Weidner, III, and hosted by Chapter President Mike Glover, division manager at Chatham Steel in Savannah, Ga.
The event took place at the Georgia Tech Hotel and Conference Center in Atlanta, Ga. Panelists included: Bill Jones, vice chairman at O’Neal Industries, the largest family-owned group of metals service centers in the United States; Joseph Alvarado, CEO of metal manufacturer Commercial Metals Company; and Danny Zink, CEO and president of Cottrell, Inc., the world’s largest automobile transportation equipment manufacturer. Also attending was Patrick Thompson, Democratic candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives in Georgia’s 11th District.
The summit was an opportunity for national and local manufacturing leaders, policy experts, employees, and political candidates to discuss the most pressing issues facing the manufacturing and metal services sectors. According to a study by MSCI, the metals industry has a direct impact on more than 500,000 jobs. While concerns about outsourcing and moving jobs overseas have dominated the news, manufacturing is actually one of the bright spots of the current economy. Manufacturing accounts for 11.7% of the U.S. GDP, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. However, significant challenges remain, including the rising cost of health care and the increasing costs the federal government has imposed on businesses.
Questions for the panel centered around MSCIs policy agenda, which includes positions on energy, trade, tax and regulation. During the discussions, panelists highlighted the importance of strong leadership and decisive action to support the growth we’re beginning to see in the manufacturing industry.
The panel was in agreement that elected officials need to work together to build a cohesive plan to get the United States back on track. “In the last two administrations–not just Obama–there has been a reluctance to develop a strategy and carry that out. It’s been more of a reaction to constituents and less of a disciplined strategy,” said Jones. “There needs to be a development of a very clear strategy and that strategy should be creating private sector jobs in this country.”
“[Elected officials should] be consistent, applying the rules of fairness and making sure that everyone adheres to those rules,” said Alvarado.
Zink agreed and added, “We must overcome the divisiveness that’s happened over the last four, five, six years. Certain aspects of the economy have been demonized and held up as being greedy. We have not had leadership that has fostered a ‘one-for-all’ atmosphere.”
Thursday’s summit was just one of 11 being held across the country this year. Other host cities include Rochester and Los Angeles. MSCI hosts these events every election cycle, following an initial set of town hall meetings in 2004 and 2005. The program was expanded this year to more forcefully address the continued economic uncertainty many manufacturers and American industries face and to provide the leadership necessary to find workable solutions.
“Our member companies, along with others in the metals supply chain, have an economic impact of a quarter of 1 trillion dollars,” said Weidner. “The importance of good public policy relative to preserving and growing jobs is why we’re here. This year is a critical election year, at a time when manufacturing could play a pivotal role in getting the nation back on track. We want to give our members and their communities a chance to learn more about the concerns of our industry and to understand where their local candidates stand on addressing those issues.” For more information, visit www.MSCI.org.