Report From America: The NAM Board Meeting, Day 2

By March 3, 2006Report from America

Report from AmericaWill give a fuller report later today, but the first full day of the NAM Board meeting is now behind us and it was full of the stuff of manufacturing. The manufacturing vibe is in the hallways here in this hotel, and what a great vibe it is. Some highlights:

— The Manufacturing Institute meeting, where Institute President Jerry Jasinowski talked of their focus on the “Three C’s”: Competitiveness, Costs and Careers.

— A great manufacturing moment: W.R. Grace CEO Fred Festa asks if someone can introduce him to Revere Copper President Brian O’Shaughnessy. Of course. We love Brian, but why the fascination? Well, turns out Fred is from Rome, NY, home of Revere’s headquarters. Fred grew up in a manufacturing family, with many of them working for Revere. But there’s a special piece of history here that makes this reunion between these two manufacturing execs all the better: While working for Revere, Fred’s grandfather filed the patent for the first whistling tea kettle, a great innovation that has withstood the test of time, and a vital part of Revere’s rich history. One more manufactured product that every homeowner takes for granted. Fred’s grandfather invented it. Way cool.

— Governor Engler gave a great report to the Board. As soon as the blogger-in-chief can manage the transcription, we’ll post it here in its entirety. A great speech about our priorities and a call to action, very well received by the troops here. Update: Here’s a link to the speech. Sorry it’s in speech font, but we wanted to get it up here as soon as we could.

Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano came to visit, and was also well-received. She spoke of the various roles of the federal government, industry and state government. For the feds, she sees the need for a national energy policy and a solution to what she calls the health care crisis. For us in manufacturing, it’s to continue to innovate, create and invest in research and development (we’re happy to oblige, and do). For the states, it’s education and to make sure the workforce meets the needs of business and industry. We’ll elaborate more on her remarks later today or tomorrow.

— The session on energy was jammed to the rafters. There will be action by manufacturers on this issue in the coming months. Stay tuned.

— Finally, the legal issues policy group meeting was also pretty full. Said one committee member, “What does my company do? We defend against lawsuits.” It is a sad commentary, but every manufacturer here has a horror story about the legal system run amok. In the process it adds costs and retards innovation. Governor Engler mentioned that we spend more on tort costs in this country than some 200 countries spend on their entire gross domestic products, a grim statistic.

Gotta run to Day 3, but wanted to post this so you all can follow the goings-on from Arizona. Will stop back to fill in some more details, but suffice it to say that turnout for this meeting is very high, business seems to be good for most, but they re all battling mightily against the costs that Congress could control if they wanted to: energy, legal, taxes, etc.

More later.