Dream It! Do It! Mitch Daniels on Manufacturing

Demonstrating the state’s commitment to taking its manufacturing economy to the next level, Governor Mitch Daniels spoke today at the Columbus kick-off event for “Dream It! Do It!” in the 10-county region of southeastern Indiana.

And what a strong statement on manufacturing it was.

We need to learn certain lessons, maybe dispel some misconceptions. Such as: We are hollowing out the economy of this country. Manufacturing is in decline. That’s completely backwards. We are making more stuff, measured any way you want to: units, tons, what matters most — dollar value, more than we ever had in this country.

Another misconception is there are not great careers in manufacturing. Backwards again. As Joe [Loughrey] just documented, some of the best jobs, most exciting careers, the best paying careers available to the next generation, will be, must be, in the manufacturing sector, in which Indiana has long excelled.

I just told every single audience and person whom I met in Europe, something they didn’t know and were interested to know, namely that Indiana is the No. 1 state in America measured by the share of the economy committed to manufacturing. We’re proud of that, and that has served us well, and it’s got to stay that way. The reason those two misconceptions are wrong is the term you keep hearing in these presentations, and that’s “advanced manufacturing.” The reason that we are making more than ever before, with fewer people than used to be required, is that each one of those jobs is so much more productive and so much more a contributing factor, and therefore so much more challenging than it used to be.

We’ve posted the transcript of his remarks in the extended entry below, and you can listen a soundfile here. Read — or listen to — the whole thing.

I’ve always have said I’d go halfway around the world for a chance to visit Columbus. Come to think of it, I just did. And I’m glad!

What the mayor said is absolutely right. Every trip to Columbus for me and for every other citizen lucky enough to get by here, seems to be an educational experience. If it doesn’t deal with education directly, one learns something important coming to this flagship community, of which we are so proud.

We are in a place of education, a unique place of education. I was happy in reminiscing about the grand opening not long ago. Once again we are gathered on an occasion that’s really important, not just for Columbus, for the counties we call Region 9, but for the whole state. And so today ends to be a day of learning, a “teaching experience” as they like to say, that I hope every other Hoosier will take note of.

We need to learn certain lessons, maybe dispel some misconceptions. Such as: We are hollowing out the economy of this country. Manufacturing is in decline. That’s completely backwards. We are making more stuff, measured any way you want to: units, tons, what matters most — dollar value, more than we ever had in this country.

Another misconception is there are not great careers in manufacturing. Backwards again. As Joe just documented, some of the best jobs, most exciting careers, the best paying careers available to the next generation, will be, must be, in the manufacturing sector, in which Indiana has long excelled.

I just told every single audience and person whom I met in Europe, something they didn’t know and were interested to know, namely that Indiana is the No. 1 state in America measured by the share of the economy committed to manufacturing. We’re proud of that, and that has served us well, and it’s got to stay that way. The reason those two misconceptions are wrong is the term you keep hearing in these presentations, and that’s “advanced manufacturing.” The reason that we are making more than ever before, with fewer people than used to be required, is that each one of those jobs is so much more productive and so much more a contributing factor, and therefore so much more challenging than it used to be.

I was at one of those smaller manufacturing companies not too far from here, two or three years ago, a guy told me something I always remember. I said, ‘This term, advanced manufacturing comes up over and over.” He said, “Yes, we have a saying down here. Advanced manufacturing is any manufacturing that’s still going on in Indiana.”

His message was, you better be at the front edge, you better be high-tech, if you want to survive. And if you are, then you can thrive. You will be making more than ever before, with each dollar you invest and each person you invest it in. And that’s a lesson of this day and for these young people who really are, as was said, the reason we are here.

When folks like Joe and I had our first jobs, that was a time – it’s not like anybody can do what Joe did (laughter) – but it’s certainly not true today. There was a happy era in this state. Most of us remember it, when somebody could walk out the door of Columbus East, Columbus North, any number of other high schools in Indiana with a diploma — maybe not even a high school diploma — armed with a good work ethic, willingness to keep their nose clean, and go down the street and get a good job for life.

Those days are no more. Advanced manufacturing requires so much more, requires the kind of integrated education and specialized training and probably continuing training that this project now makes possible in this part of the state. So it’s a day of great hope, certainly for the young of Region 9, but I hope it goes further than that. My job is to spread this message to other regions of this state, stay on Andrew (Penca)* back here until we have something roughly equivalent all over Indiana.

Because the last lesson of this economy comes back to me more all the time, especially on trips like I just took. We can be a great state, not a state that maintains its standard of living, not an average state

But it will not happen by accident. Things are happening in Indiana that are not happening in neighboring states or in most states of this country. But they require new initiatives and innovations like the Columbus Learning Center, like this project. Good location, great infrastructure, willing workers are no longer good enough. We need this generation of workers to be so much smarter and better prepared than we were. And if they are, then the sky’s the limit, not just for them, but for our whole state.

*Andrew Penca is director of the state Department of Workforce Development.