A National Association of Manufacturers survey, which coincided with a speech by Vice President Mike Pence, found concerns remain about infrastructure.
American manufacturers remain optimistic about their companies’ future but have concerns about the nation’s infrastructure and the ability to attract skilled workers, the quarterly Manufacturers’ Outlook Survey released Tuesday by the National Association of Manufacturers found.
Vice President Mike Pence addressed those issues, spoke about trade relations and championed the Trump administration’s track record in job creation in a speech to the NAM Board of Directors that coincided with the survey’s release.
“As President Trump said when he spoke to you in our first year in office, the drive and dedication of your workers make this country run, and their creations power our communities and protect our nation,” Pence said during his roughly half-hour speech. “The truth is American manufacturing and American manufacturing workers are the backbone of America.”
According to the survey, 89.5 percent of the 466 respondents said they were optimistic about their companies’ outlook, which is up from 88.7 percent from the fourth quarter of 2018 survey. Since the first quarter of 2017, the average level of optimism is 91.8 percent, including a high of 95.1 percent in the second quarter of 2018.
NAM credited the Trump administration’s tax reform and regulatory certainty for the continued high percentages. Pence said the administration in 2018 cut 12 federal regulations for every new one added.
“The truth is the reforms we have brought about have meant more money to invest in your business,” he said. “The growing economy also means more money for your workers and for their families.”
Since Trump took office, the workforce has grown 3.2 percent, which includes 480,000 new manufacturing jobs, Pence said. Overall, manufacturing employment in the U.S. stands at 12.8 million.
But 71.3 percent of respondents said attracting and retaining a quality workforce is the biggest challenge they currently face. The vice president said nearly 3.5 million manufacturing jobs are going to be created in the next decade, but about 2.4 million of those positions could go unfilled.
In the president’s first year in office, he signed an executive order to expand apprenticeships and vocational education to help train the workforce for the growing demand, Pence said.
More than 77 percent of manufacturers also said the nation’s infrastructure is insufficient for them to remain competitive in the future, and 56 percent said passing a major infrastructure bill would have a positive impact on their companies’ business plans and outlook.
Last week, NAM released a revised “Building to Win” blueprint for investment in infrastructure, which has been a common topic among Senate and House committee hearings.
Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao also spoke to the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials on Feb. 27 and voiced support of federal investment in infrastructure and the streamlining of the permitting and approval process to quicken the delivery of road and bridge projects. Her address followed remarks from the chairmen and ranking members of the Senate Environmental and Public Works Committee and House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
Pence reiterated the administration’s commitment to investing in infrastructure.
“I’ve always said that roads mean jobs, and I don’t just mean road jobs,” Pence said. “The truth is … the right infrastructure makes it possible for you to deliver your goods not only across your state, across the nation, but across the world.”
In a survey question on the biggest challenges, 56.5 percent of respondents listed rising healthcare and insurance costs, 55.8 percent said increased raw material costs and 52.6 percent said trade uncertainties.
Pence spoke about the importance of U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement being approved by Congress this year. He also said the Trump administration will continue to negotiate trade relations with China that are “free and fair and reciprocal.”