August 29, 2020
There is a simple three-pronged approach that is neither burdensome nor time-consuming. If we work these three areas, we can move the onshoring needle and enrich our job pool without a significant time investment. To make this work, we must all work together and do our part.
Our actions must be practical, targeted, and focused, particularly in these three areas. Note that the actual order of the steps is unimportant. Without further ado, here is what I propose we do:
- Use social pressure to influence corporate behavior.
Quickly make a list of at least 5 companies you patronize that import parts and materials from Asia. Possibilities include auto makers, computers and peripherals (e.g., printers), mobile devices, televisions, apparel, pharmaceuticals, and raw materials for building (e.g., nuts, bolts, sheetrock, and plywood).
How much time would it take for us all to commit to contacting these companies and telling them we expect them to source their materials domestically in the United States? If the companies we depend on got the message that we know our relationship is symbiotic — they depend on our dollars, just as we depend on their products — and that we expect then to do business with American suppliers, the public pressure could move the needle and end the practice of outsourcing (often in ethically questionable factory environments).
- Become vocal with your local and state leadership about creating an environment conducive to attracting new manufacturing facilities. Research your city, county, and state’s policies with respect to new businesses. Raise the question of how to improve current policies to make your locale more attractive to domestic companies. What kinds of tax breaks or other accommodations would motivate American companies to seriously evaluate your town as a location for a factory?Many manufacturing positions are at least semi-skilled. Can your community work with local colleges and/or organizations to create programs that will develop talent to support factories, should they come?
- Work the federal legislative angle. Tell your state and federal senators and representatives that you expect them to bring and/or support onshoring-friendly legislation.This means, first, that they should demand legislatively that all key military and civilian infrastructural systems should be built with materials made in the U.S.A. Why are we building fighter jets with parts from Asia? Why are we upgrading parts of our electrical grid with foreign equipment? Legislators can give this problem visibility, and they can solve it by writing bills and casting votes.
Last month, Congressional member Bill Posey introduced a piece of legislation, H. R. 7594, to bring manufacturing jobs back to America from China. (Read about the bill here.) This bill, called the RAM Act (Reshoring American Manufacturing Act of 2020), will provide tax credits for companies that bring manufacturing equipment back to America and put it into production.
Research the RAM Act, and then follow up with your Congressional representative. Tell your rep what you like about the bill, and that you want it supported. Even a small number of contacts from constituents (sometimes, even fewer than ten) will seismically influence federal Senators and Representatives in Congress.
Other onshoring-related topics you could bring up with your Senators and Reps include a demand that ITAR (International Traffic in Arms Regulations) rules be enforced. ITAR regulates the import and export of military equipment, technology, and services. According to ITAR, our fighter planes should be built with American parts. Yet, this rule is routinely ignored. As I covered in the last Chris’s Corner installment, this is low-hanging fruit for onshoring efforts. Why not just enforce the regulations currently on the books?
Our representatives in Congress should also feel pressure from the public to put a stop to technology theft, which, as I mentioned in previous articles, runs rampant in Asia.
Letters and calls to our representatives would take mere minutes a month. Learning about our local and state laws and ordinances may require a few phone calls and attendance at a few meetings, but you could quickly become an expert in your area. If a few hundred of us who are passionate about giving Americans jobs were to make our presence known locally and regionally, we could change the course our local politicians take. Similarly, the social pressure we would put on companies would create an undeniable change in the national vibe, making onshoring seem like the obvious choice, no matter how to slice it.