Dow’s Andrew Liveris: Manufacturing Is Vital To U.S. Economy

By January 26, 2011Economy, Trade

One of the best interviews on manufacturing we’ve ever heard was on NPR Tuesday, when Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep spoke with Andrew Liveris, CEO of Dow Chemical Co. Liveris discussed the primary themes in his new book, Make it In America: The Case for Reinventing the Economy, and touched on many of the priorities facing manufacturing in the United States — trade, taxes, innovation, energy.

From the interview (sound, transcript):

INSKEEP: OK. What are some lines there where the United States apparently doesn’t do very well, since you have moved some operations overseas?

Mr. LIVERIS: Well, I not only have high taxes, I have uncertain taxes. Right now, I have more regulations coming at me that are not fact-based, not science-based, not data-based. I actually don’t even know what my costs are going to be in the next five years. And so I’m sitting back waiting for regulatory reform, and the government, of course, is now engaged on that – health care and the uncertainty around the health-care bill, and what’s going to end up happening there. Energy policy – we’ve got lots of uncertainty in the energy policy regimen. I mean, I can keep going, but that’s half a dozen.

INSKEEP: Well, you keep using the word uncertainty. It sounds like you almost don’t care what the rules are as long as you know what they are and what they’re going to be five years from now.

Mr. LIVERIS: The choice – bad policy versus uncertain policy – is a tough choice. I don’t think we have to go there.

INSKEEP: Is there some way in which, actually, you want an activist government, then?

Mr. LIVERIS: Yeah, activist in the sense that they are proactive, yes. I think we have a crisis in this country around manufacturing. I believe we need to have an activist – to use your word – government that engages proactively with business to create that framework, a public-private partnership. If there’s anything in the book that, you know, hasn’t been stated before, it’s that.

You need the private sector to have an input; you need the public sector to have an input; and it needs to be brought together at a national level.

And from the introduction to Liveris’ book:

As the world’s largest economy, the United States … has an obligation not just to its own people, but to the people of the world, to get this right. To no longer accept the shuttering of factories and offshoring of jobs as inevitable. To reject once and for all the idea that manufacturing is somehow optional, or incidental to our future.

On the contrary: manufacturing is America’s future. Not just its past. Manufacturing is the foundation upon which our economic prosperity, our growth and wealth and jobs depend. At the center of our economic problems lie the hole that was left when manufacturing started to disappear. And at the center of our solution is a strategy to rebuild that once vibrant sector.

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