By Jim Edmonson

Who endorses more investment in research and development?

Who favors the expansion of alternative fuels?

Who advocates for a 21st Century transportation network?

Who embraces innovation?

Who wants to reduce urban congestion?

Who wants to sell more globally?

Who endorses wellness and prevention?

Who wants to ensure every student earns an education or certified workforce skill?

Who provides the greatest economic activity to a community?

Who constitutes 61% of all U. S. exports?

Who provides the highest paying jobs?

Ok, enough. Have you figured it out? American manufacturers. This information and more is available from The Manufacturing Institute .

Don’t we all scramble to get appointments who are natural advocates for these issues on our Boards? That’s why partnerships with industry are so beneficial for community and economic development organizations. If you don’t have some form of a Manufacturers Council, get one. Find your industry leaders and enlist their help.

If you have been thinking that manufacturing is dead, you’re dead wrong. You may have some local industries that are failing, but those are likely a result of poor management or casualties to the normal life cycle of business. As industry is getting leaner, it is becoming meaner. Productivity gains have allowed American companies to compete globally. Plus, U.S. manufacturers are still the mothers of invention and innovation. Most manufacturers will gladly give up commodity mass-production items to China and keep the cutting-edge, high-value-added products in their production cycle. As new products cycle in, the old most likely move off-shore.

Mark Whitehouse, in his recent article in the Wall Street Journal, “Keeping Production at Home,” states, “what ever is going abroad, has.” In Mark’s opinion, “what will stay is the production of high-end goods, home building materials, services, medical testing facilities, electronic components, chemicals and metal fabrication.” The reasons are many, but primarily because they are transportation-, skill-, or market-sensitive. If you think about it, you can add more to the list. Defense industries, homeland security devices, medical care facilities, educational facilities–I don’t think these are going overseas anytime soon. And there are many more. So don’t give up on manufacturing so quickly. Many of our most successful communities across the country attribute some of their success to a strong manufacturing sector.

Any meaningful relationship should be two-way, so as you recruit manufacturing leaders as volunteers, here is a list of what is important to them, so you can lend them a hand, too.

The National Association of Manufacturing’s Agenda for Jobs and Economic Growth: Investing in America ( ) is:

•  Energy Security

•  Revitalized Infrastructure

•  A Level International Playing Field

•  Legal and Regulatory Fairness

•  Fair and Competitive Tax Policy

•  High-Performance Workforce

•  Consumer-Based Health Care

If you haven’t done so already, partner up with your local manufacturers–you have many common interests. Place key manufacturers on your Boards, make your retention calls to local industry, and prepare an industry-attraction strategy that strengthens your existing clusters and doesn’t threaten your key players.