U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin on Friday visited Waukesha Metal Products, where she spoke of the importance of making a commitment to manufacturing.
Friday was National Manufacturing Day, and, given the recent announcements of major manufacturing closures and layoffs in the area, she was asked how Wisconsin citizens can encourage their children to enter the industry.
“I think the U.S. and frankly the state of Wisconsin has to make it clear that we’re making a long-term commitment to making things,” Baldwin said. “We can’t have an economy that is built to last if we don’t make things as part of that economy.”
One of the ways to do that she said is to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank.
“We tell our manufacturers we want to see growth in exports, and we’ll support you, but without an export financing institution that’s a hollow promise,” Baldwin said. “I’ve been fighting for the renewal and reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank ever since I got to Congress. Unfortunately, right now the Republicans in the House are holding up reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank, and its future is in jeopardy. The world is taking notice, and it impacts Wisconsin probably worse than any other state because we have such a robust manufacturing economy. We have got to make a long-term commitment to it.”
Here in southeastern Wisconsin, GE Power & Water is laying off 350 employees in Waukesha, and Joy Global Surfacing Mining Inc. said it will lay off 113 workers in Milwaukee beginning Nov. 30.
Johnson Controls Inc. also recently announced plans to cut 3,000 people globally over the next two years, and Caterpillar Inc. expects to eliminate 10,000 jobs at unspecified locations by 2018.
Baldwin said closures like these are also concerning because they create a “seismic ripple effect” with the smaller- and medium-size companies that supply these larger companies.
She asserts a commitment to manufacturing has to come from all levels of government, public and private partnerships, and technical colleges and university systems.
A positive step, she said, is the creation of manufacturing hubs and the kind of work that is done by the Water Council, but far more needs to be done.
According to Baldwin, the two major critical issues to strengthening the state’s manufacturing economy are reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank and preparing the future workforce.
“That’s one of the reasons we’re here with these young people today,” she said of the latter. “To say this isn’t your grandfather’s factory. This is an exciting pace to work, and it needs a lot of preparation and skills to do that.”
The young people to whom Baldwin referred were the 50 engineering students from New Berlin High School who participated in the Waukesha Metal Products tour with her on Friday as part of the Manufacturing Day events taking place across the state.
Waukesha Metal Products vice president and chief operating officer Michael Steger said Manufacturing Day is important because it allows manufacturers like his company to teach the future workforce about the industry.
“Not everyone realizes or understands what manufacturing is all about it,” he said. “It gives us a great opportunity to show them the different career pathways and provides us the opportunity to share the technology behind the manufacturing and how the parts and subcomponents are used in automobiles or in general how they’re used in practice.”
Other Manufacturing Day events in the southeastern Wisconsin area included a visit from Gov. Scott Walker to GenMet Corp. in Mequon; student tours and discussions with Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson at TLX Technologies LLC in Pewaukee; and tours at Dynamic Tool & Design Inc. in Menomonee Falls.