On its 125th anniversary (to the date), National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) President and CEO was at Vermeer in Pella to deliver the organization’s State of Manufacturing Address.
NAM was founded on Jan. 22, 1895, with a meeting in Cincinnati, Ohio. Its mission today is to support the 13 million men and women employed by manufacturing in the United States.
“Vermeer embodies the story of manufacturers’ progress,” Timmons said to a live audience inside the Vermeer Global Pavilion, as well as one that was watching the address online. Vermeer’s ties to the NAM are strong, as former CEO Mary Andringa was the first female Chair of the NAM board.
“The organization had gone well over a century without a female chair,” current CEO and Mary’s son, Jason Andringa, said. “It’s been a privilege for us to be heavily involved in the National Association of Manufacturers.”
Timmons was complimentary of the story of Vermeer, how it began with Gary Vermeer building a piece of equipment to help make things easier on his own farm. Today, Vermeer employs over 3,500 and manufactures equipment used in agriculture and infrastructure that is shipped all around the world.
“This is really ground zero for manufacturing in the United States,” Timmons said. He added that Vermeer has an “iconic” story. “I think it’s the story of Americana.”
Timmons remarked that 2020 is a landmark year for NAM, not only because of the significant anniversary, but because of new initiatives it is taking to inspire more people to view manufacturing as a viable career path. He and Jason Andringa each shared that the issues they hear from manufacturers, and Vermeer customers alike, is the lack of a skilled workforce.
Technology will drive the fourth industrial revolution, Timmons said, but people are still needed in the industry.
“Technology makes us safer,” Timmons said. “It’s more effective.” In the next eight years, there will be 4.6 million jobs coming open in the field. He is working to raise awareness that manufacturing is no longer the “dirty, dangerous” occupation it once was.
One of the ways NAM is working to recruit more people to manufacturing is through its Creators Wanted program. This program will include a tour of the United States to provide this kind of education. It has launched with $10 million of its $20 million goal to fund the campaign. Pella Corporation has contributed $100,000 to the effort, as have Vermeer, Vermeer Foundation and Dale and Mary Andringa.
Even as the industry is experiencing a worker shortage, Timmons said there is a renewed resolve among manufacturers, who are looking for a better, brighter future. He praised the current administration in Washington, D.C., for keeping promises made on the campaign trail. Everyone is encouraged by Timmons to vote, first and foremost, and to communicate with candidates while holding them accountable.
“It is always important to hold leaders and candidates accountable,” Timmons said. He added that “91.5 percent” of the regulations requests made by NAM have been addressed in the three years since President Trump took office. Those that remain are linked to corporate governance, environmental stewardship, issues of process and how things are done. He praised Trump for signing an executive order that limits the time the federal government has to act on a permit application to two years. The longest time a company has waited for an answer, in Timmons’s experience, has been eight years. No company can wait that long, he added.
While Timmons spoke well of the current administration, NAM does not endorse any candidate. It has to work with who is elected. What NAM looks for in candidates is if they uphold “the values that make America exceptional.”
These include support of free enterprise, competitiveness (making sure American manufacturers get to use a level playing field), individual liberty and equal opportunity.
“What matters isn’t party,” Timmons said. “What matters is good policy.”
NAM considers itself post-partisan, Timmons said. He believes the recently signed U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement would not have passed if it became partisan. NAM has created an agenda with 11 key priorities – what manufacturing will need to keep America strong.
“On trade, we have to keep moving forward,” Timmons said. He targeted China, and said that, while tariffs have consequences, so does cheating. He would like to see the Trump Administration keep up the pressure on China.
America is a net exporter on energy today, for the first time in modern history. The country is less reliant on fuels from hostile regions around the world, and manufacturers are working to address climate change in ways they know how. What NAM supports is innovation, cooperation, “smart” legislation that does not restrict the industry responsible for $2.4 trillion in the American economy.
“We’re all in this together on this one, God-given planet,” Timmons said.
One piece of legislation NAM supports would be the “Building to Win” Plan, which includes a $1 trillion investment in infrastructure. For Vermeer specifically, all areas of infrastructure should be addressed. Infrastructure was one of the priorities Rep. Dave Loebsack mentioned when he was in Pella on Saturday, Jan. 18.
“I think we need to get started on an infrastructure process,” Loebsack said. As his term winds down, that will be one of his goals.
Jason Andringa said it starts with team members able to get to the facility every day to build – they need good roads and bridges to get to Pella. Then, of course, equipment built in Pella needs to safely reach customers around the country and world – including by air and by sea. In addition, Vermeer would see benefits from an infrastructure investment, as it builds several products which aid in underwater and underground line installation.
“Vermeer builds the equipment that builds the fiber optic backbone that makes that possible,” Jason Andringa said.
Because of the workforce shortage, NAM supports immigration reforms. NAM believes its members will be the key to getting many issues discussed ad nauseum in Iowa through the caucus season addressed – including health care.
According to Timmons, 98 percent of NAM members offer health insurance. A government only plan “won’t cut it” for the industry. NAM currently has a program that allows smaller companies to access insurance plans enjoyed by larger ones.
“That’s what an association does to take care of its members,” Timmons said.