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Scorecard Shows Improved Business Environment for U.S. Manufacturers

Significant progress has been made in implementing the recommendations made by the Commerce Department’s 2004 report, Manufacturing in America.

by Carla Langjahr and Matt Braud

Since its publication of Manufacturing in America, the comprehensive 2004 report on the state of the U.S. manufacturing sector, the U.S. Department of Commerce has continued to make progress in overseeing the implementation of the 57 policy recommendations made in the report. To date, 36 of the report’s recommendations have been implemented, and the remaining 21 await final action.

A Wide-Ranging Snapshot of U.S. Manufacturing

The 2004 report comprises three chapters that covered (1) an in-depth analysis of the long-term trends affecting the U.S. manufacturing sector, (2) a report on the key challenges faced by manufacturers and the views they expressed at 27 industry-specific roundtables held across the country in 2003, and (3) a list of 57 recommendations for action by the federal government from the roundtables.

The report took a broad look at government’s role in manufacturing. It was not limited to administrative matters but addressed a wide range of program and policy initiatives that would require coordination between the legislative and executive branches to create the conditions necessary to foster U.S. manufacturing competitiveness.

Manufacturing Unit Established

One important outcome of the report was the establishment of the Manufacturing and Services (MAS) unit within the Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration. Since its establishment in 2004, MAS has taken great steps toward fulfilling its mandate to enhance the global competitiveness of U.S. industry through the implementation of the recommendations.

The recommendations were grouped into six categories: (1) enhancing government’s focus on manufacturing competitiveness; (2) creating the conditions for economic growth and manufacturing investment; (3) lowering the cost of manufacturing in the United States; (4) investing in innovation and new technologies that fuel productivity gains; (5) strengthening education, retraining, and economic diversification; and (6) promoting open markets and a level playing field.

Many of the recommendations required coordinated efforts between agencies within the executive branch. Other recommendations called for Congress to take action.

Upcoming Implementation Actions

MAS expects to implement additional recommendations in the coming months. Similar to all of the actions taken in response to the 2004 report, implementing those recommendations will improve the competitiveness of U.S. manufacturers. The recommendations include the following:

  • Strengthening partnerships to promote manufacturing technology transfer and to better ensure the broad diffusion of technology, particularly to small and medium-sized manufacturers.
  • Initiating a benchmark analysis on skills. (Outline for Educational Benchmarking Resource Guide, a report addressing this issue, is being released by the Commerce Department in late spring 2007.)

Since the publication of Manufacturing in America, the Commerce Department has measured the progress made toward implementing the recommendations. The resulting “Manufacturing in America Scorecard,” along with other information related to efforts by the federal government to assist domestic manufacturers, is available for viewing on the Internet at

Carla Langjahr is an international trade specialist in the International Trade Administration’s Manufacturing and Services unit. Matt Braud is a public affairs specialist in the International Trade Administration’s Office of Public Affairs.