This year’s spring meeting of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) Board of Directors (BOD) was held in Scottsdale, Arizona. The BOD attendee list included approximately 100 CEO’s, Presidents, and business owners from all 50 states. An additional 100 invited guests were present, which included staff from NAM, spouses, media, and other companies who wanted to attend to find out what NAM is about.
Of the 100 NAM Board Directors, approximately 35 (myself included) are also members of the Small and Medium Manufacturers (SMM) group. Traditionally, this group arrives a day before the Fortune 500 leaders convene, in order to conduct our own meeting. At this year’s SMM meeting, I learned very quickly that small and medium businesses are thriving in our country. Seemingly everyone in attendance was exceptionally busy and optimistic for our future.
At our roundtable, we discussed the number one challenge facing us today – our extremely tight labor force. The majority of the companies represented were not fully staffed. We learned the major hurdles we face in this competitive hiring market, along with the many creative methods used by other businesses to attract new talent. This is no longer a regional dilemma. NAM estimates currently 428,000 manufacturing jobs remain unfilled in the US. They also predict that manufacturers will have over 4.6 million jobs to fill in the next decade. All of our MTI members must be ready to face this challenge today and in the future.
The second item discussed within the SMM board was the responsibility we have to ensure our employees know and understand how policy proposals impact our companies. Recent NAM research shows that 64% of manufacturing employees listen and trust the supervisors and executives at their respective companies. Therefore, the majority of our MTI member’s employees really do want to know how current policy issues impact their company’s ability to compete and grow. I sincerely believe NAM does an excellent job of analyzing the voting records, while walking that fine line between voter education and political blowback.
To conclude the day’s meetings, we enjoyed a great tour of the PING factory. This state of the art golf club company put together a great tour, including a putting contest, in which I choked. Forget about automation here; every golf club is handmade to individual specifications. During the tour an awesome display of microstructures were compared- as cast, competitors clubs, and heat treated PING’s. The tour guide heard my description to a colleague and let me describe the microstructures to the group. It was truly a heat treaters moment.
On Monday, Nikki Haley, the former US Ambassador to the United Nations, joined the entire NAM Board for the opening lunch. She spoke in great detail about her negotiations with North Korea while at the UN. She described how paranoid Kim Jong-un is and how he desperately needs relief from our sanctions. While he wants all sanctions off the table, Trump, on the other hand, desires to see steps toward denuclearization. She was not surprised about last week’s talks falling apart; she said Trump walked. She also told the attendees never to trust Russia, especially with their expertise in cyber-attacks. She believes that since Presidents Trump and Xi really do like each other, we will get a trade deal with China. Regarding the 2020 elections, she believes the primary will be in reverse of 2016. There will be a host of candidates on the Democratic side, with Biden the most conservative, and the majority on the far left. She believes Trump will win reelection if the economy stays as strong as it is today.
Steven Moore, Economist and Author of “Trumponomics”, spoke after Ms. Haley. He advised us not to judge Trump on how he acts or behaves, but to judge him on the results. Our economy is growing 3-4%; Trump wants 5%. There are 7.1 M more jobs than workers; therefore in his opinion we need legal immigration to supply the workforce. The Fed rate hike in December was a killer to our last quarter. He believes Trump knows he made a mistake appointing Powell as Fed Chair. Expect the Fed not to raise the rates in the near future. Trump is attacking the unfair trade deals with China. We doubled our energy production, costs are going down, and we can finally be energy independent. The US has reduced carbon emissions more than any country in the world by using natural gas. The two best business friendly states in the US are Utah and Idaho. The “apocalypse” states for business are New York, Vermont, Illinois, California, and New Jersey. Therefore, people are moving out of Blue states such as New York and California to Red states such as Texas and Florida with zero personal income tax.
The one unified message from all business leaders was the need to pass the USMCA (US Mexico Canada Agreement). The moderator for this roundtable, David Seaton (CEO, Fluor), held up his cell phone in the air. He said when the last free trade agreement was negotiated (NAFTA), this smart phone did not even exist. He said it is time. Our Congress needs swift approval of USMCA for businesses stability and predictability.
NAM has introduced a new program, “Heroes MAKE America.” It is a program to do right for our veterans who did right for us, and was rolled out last year at Fort Hood. The program takes active soldiers during their last 10 weeks of service and trains them for skills needed in manufacturing (they already possess very strong teambuilding, problem solving, and leadership skills). Currently it is only available in Texas. There are plans to expand this program to other forts, and also to the Marines this year. The CEO of Samsung, a Korean company founded in 1969, in an effort to show his appreciation of the 30,000 brave Americans who lost their life during the Korean War, announced Samsung’s commitment as a corporate sponsor of the Heroes MAKE America program. It was a really touching moment.
To conclude the NAM meeting, Vice President Mike Pence traveled to Arizona to present a rousing speech for America. He touched on every subject in this report. He specifically talked about how his boss is a tremendous business person and a true entrepreneur, much like those in the NAM audience. He told the story of a meeting with the Chinese on unfair trade deals in the Oval Office. When the President was talking about how one-sided the one particular clause of the trade deal was for the US, he first congratulated the Chinese for their win. Then Trump had to ask the delegation how they got such a sweet deal with us in the first place? They replied “nobody ever called us and it just went through.” Pence reassured everyone in the room that will never happen with this President.
Over the years I have learned that our association with NAM has been very beneficial to Solar. NAM’s ultimate goal is to help us make business easier. Located in Washington DC, they are extremely well connected to the Oval Office, especially with the current administration, and their resources are many. In my opinion the annual cost for our companies to be a NAM member of $1,200.00 is well worth the investment. I would highly recommend and encourage other MTI members, both commercials and associates, to do the same.
NAM report provided by Bob Hill, President of Solar Atmospheres of Western PA.