Manufacturing in Pennsylvania has produced economic vitality and growth in the Keystone State dating back to the Civil War. At one point, an estimated two-thirds of all manufactured goods in the United States were made here. Today, manufacturing is still critical to the state’s livelihood, accounting for nearly 12% of the state’s total output each year — or roughly $93 billion dollars.
Volvo Construction Equipment in Shippensburg, Pa., contributes to that figure with 800 employees developing and manufacturing the construction equipment that makes America. They are among nearly 4,000 Pennsylvanians who work at Volvo Group facilities, including a Mack Trucks plant in the Lehigh Valley and a remanufacturing facility in Middletown. These are good-paying jobs — with entry-level roles in Shippensberg averaging $50,000 and 30 days paid time off — that employ hard-working Americans supporting the state’s economy.
However, while the recent period of record-breaking national economic growth has been a boon to our company, the future of manufacturing in our state is on the minds of many Pennsylvanians. For example, while 55% of registered Pennsylvania voters think manufacturing is growing or remaining stable, according to a January poll from Morning Consult and the Association of Equipment Manufacturers, the other 45% believe manufacturing is on the decline.
U.S. voters’ mixed feelings about the future of manufacturing may have something to do with conflicting reports about the state of the manufacturing sector. The most recent IHS Markit and ISM manufacturing indexes diverged sharply, with the former indicating that the sector is expanding, and the latter indicating that it is experiencing its worst level since the Great Recession.
It’s not clear which view of American manufacturing is correct. Either way, voters’ concerns about the future of manufacturing is something candidates running for elected office in 2020 should heed. Especially since the same Morning Consult poll showed that 80% of Pennsylvania voters, more than in any other state surveyed, say manufacturing will be an important factor when casting their vote in the 2020 presidential election. This is a big reason why some are calling 2020 the “Manufacturing Election.”
President Donald Trump won several manufacturing-heavy swing states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin (all states that President Barack Obama previously carried in 2012). Early indications are that Democrats are focusing their efforts on these battleground states in 2020. They plan to recapture these states in part by addressing concerns important to manufacturers, including bread-and-butter issues like jobs, taxes, health care, and how to keep rural communities strong.
These are the issues candidates from both parties must champion if they hope to win the hearts and minds of voters in Pennsylvania and other manufacturing states across the country.
Infrastructure development is a prime example: despite repeated campaign promises by Democrats and Republicans alike to rebuild our nation’s infrastructure, our elected officials in Washington remain stalled in moving forward on any kind of large infrastructure package. Infrastructure is the backbone of the U.S. economy. Repairing and modernizing roads and bridges, airports, ports, and inland waterways, as well as broadband and utility infrastructure, will create tens of thousands of new jobs in the equipment manufacturing industry and help revitalize manufacturing communities in Pennsylvania and across the country.
This is one of many challenges and opportunities of consequence to Americans that are tied to manufacturing this year. Candidates will have many opportunities to articulate concrete policy solutions as they crisscross the country stumping for votes. Let’s hope they do so.