Parents’ and teachers’ perception of manufacturing jobs needs to change if students are to be encouraged to go into industrial work, participants in a panel discussion said Tuesday.
“Parents believe that manufacturing is pouring steel in Pittsburgh in 1962 — dirty, dark and dangerous,” said Aric Newhouse, senior vice president of the National Association of Manufacturers.
Advanced manufacturing, by contrast, often involves highly automated processes taking place in near-sterile conditions, such as in the “clean rooms” at the GlobalFoundries computer chip plant in Malta.
Newhouse was among speakers at the forum, which was co-sponsored by GlobalFoundries and The Aspen Institute and held at the Saratoga Springs City Center.
Speakers said manufacturing is coming back to the United States but friendlier government policies are needed to encourage more of it.
Newhouse urged manufacturers to work together and approach Washington officials with a united voice calling for policies that encourage domestic investment.
He also urged taking the time to educate new members of Congress — there are more than 100 since the 2010 elections — about topics such as international competitiveness.
“People in Congress aren’t asking what’s in the best interest of job creation,” Newhouse said. “They’re asking what is the politically expedient thing to do.”
The current dysfunction in Washington was a subtext of the discussion. “The responsibility is on us to elect more pragmatic people,” said moderator James Hagerty, a reporter from The Wall Street Journal.
A deputy U.S. secretary of commerce was originally scheduled to be the keynote speaker, but was furloughed as part of the nine-day-old partial government shutdown.
Such failure to get business done is the wrong signal to send companies thinking of investing in the United States, Newhouse said.
“A lot of it is the signals we get from Washington, the partisanship, the gridlock, the great divide,” Newhouse said.
GlobalFoundries’ $9 billion investment in its Fab 8 plant, along with the state university’s $14 billion College of Nanoscale Sciences and Engineering in Albany, are making the Capital Region a rising international star in advanced manufacturing and technology research.
“It’s great that this kind of thing is happening here,” said Jim Angus, vice president of the Saratoga Economic Development Corp. “Having national people come here is a recognition of all we have accomplished.”
The Aspen Institute is a Washington, D.C.-based think tank. It has programs that focus on partnership with the Middle East and also on development of advanced domestic manufacturing.
Both came into play Tuesday, since GlobalFoundries is owned by the Advanced Technology Investment Co., a fund controlled by the government of Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates.
“New York has been on the cutting edge of transforming 21st century ideas into reality on the ground,” said Toni G. Verstandig, chairwoman of The Aspen Institute’s Middle East Programs.
Other speakers noted that the United States has natural advantages, including its educational system and financial stability. Those factors come into play when companies are deciding whether to manufacture in the United States or elsewhere.
“The idea that you can have the manufacturing one place and the ideas coming from somewhere else is false. A lot of the ideas come from the manufacturing,” said David Chavern, executive vice president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
He also said the regions need to speak with one voice in trying to attract business and get new government policy. “Business, academic and political leaders have to be on the same page, cheek by jowl,” Chavern said. “I’m amazed at the places that doesn’t happen.”
G. Dan Hutcheson, CEO and chairman of VLSI Research, said maintaining leadership in semiconductors is important to the United States.
“America is a leader in semiconductors and it needs to remain a leader in semiconductors to protect the future,” he said.
Hutcheson also said that when states offer a business-friendly climate and location incentives, they need to be consistent. Texas began losing high-tech industries when it stopped making good on incentive deals, he said.
New York in 2006 offered cash and tax incentives now estimated at more than $2 billion to land what was then an AMD plant and is now GlobalFoundries, but hasn’t offered such a large package to anyone since.
“Companies can always move, but states can’t,” Hutcheson said.
The Aspen Institute says manufacturing is now 11.6 percent of U.S. gross national product and that could increase to 16 percent by 2025 if the federal government adopts policies that favor activities such as encouraging basic scientific research investment and better preparing students to enter a high-tech workforce.
“Manufacturing is still the backbone of modern economies, especially advanced digital manufacturing like we have here in New York state,” said Thomas Duesterberg, executive director of The Aspen Institute’s Manufacturing & Society in the 21st Century initiative.
The State University of New York is trying to coordinate all its community colleges to put more emphasis on science, technology, engineering and math.
“Fortune 500 companies have 130,000 vacant jobs,” said Johanna Duncan-Poitier, SUNY’s senior vice president for community colleges and the Education Pipeline.