Yesterday, I participated in a panel in Chicago co-sponsored by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and the NAM titled, “Made in America: A Revival in Manufacturing?” Diane Swonk, the Senior Managing Director and Chief Economist at Mesirow Financial, did an excellent job moderating our discussion, reminding the audience that “American manufacturing is the most productive in the world” (which she repeated on Twitter). She spoke about growing up in Detroit, the daughter of an autoworker, and is someone who truly cherishes the fact that manufacturers are helping to lead the economy out of the recession.
Despite much of the gloom-and-doom discussions about the economy that permeated the airwaves last week, the overall tone of our discussion was one of optimism. Panelist David Beebe, the Vice President of Manufacturing Operations for Navistar, questioned whether we even needed to have the question mark in the title for the panel, hoping that everyone recognized that there is a revival in manufacturing.
While there has been some weakness in the sector of late — mainly from transitory factors, as Diane Swonk noted — manufacturers seem poised to take advantage of a growing global economy moving forward. It helped, of course, that much of the news this week has been positive. On Monday, the NAM/IndustryWeek survey showed manufacturers optimistic about their future sales, employment, capital spending, and exports. This was followed by an upbeat assessment on the economic future in the Federal Reserve’s Beige Book and yesterday’s strong export statistics for April. (continue reading…)