16 Feb Optimistic Outlook For Manufacturing
Madison, Wis. — Kenneth Poole, an economic and community development specialist, presented a hopeful outlook for Wisconsin manufacturing Friday at the 2004 Governor’s Conference on Economic Development. Abstaining from morbid statistics and pessimistic views, Poole emphasized ways to keep and grow businesses in Wisconsin.
Wisconsin manufacturing suffered very little in the aftermath of the dot-com breakdown, Poole said. He cited that Wisconsin saw only a 9.1 percent drop in manufacturing employment from 1994 to 2003. In addition, Poole noted recent information which showed China, a major manufacturing competitor, lost 15 to 20 percent of its manufacturing base at the same time that Wisconsin experienced similar losses.
“Wisconsin hasn’t done terribly badly compared to the rest of the nation,” he said.
Manufacturing job loss is nothing new but is now more noticeable as downsizing occurs at an accelerated pace, Poole said. To solve this problem, manufacturers must realize they are now competing in a global marketplace that requires them to stick to what has made America successful–innovation.
Businesses that ignore the trend to compete nationally and globally will be leaving the Wisconsin communities that depend on them, Poole said.
“We have to realize that we’re not going to keep everything,” he added.
Imminent job loss was an opinion shared by Douglas Venable, director of economic development for the City of Janesville. He noted recent information that showed China, a major manufacturing competitor, lost 15 to 20 percent of its manufacturing base at the same time that Wisconsin experienced similar losses.
“The loss [in manufacturing jobs] is not coming only because of international competition. It’s just that productivity innovations are pervading the industry. Everybody’s getting more efficient and unless we’re moving faster than our competitors, we’re going to be losing even more,” Venable said.
Dan Madden, area development manager for the Wisconsin Department of Commerce, embraced Poole’s optimism for Wisconsin’s economy.
“It is a really positive thing to know that our losses are much less dramatic than what’s happening across the country, which implies that we are a lot more competitive than other states and that’s a bright thing to focus on and I think that he was right that sometimes we miss that,” Madden said.
To maintain manufacturing jobs, Poole recommended Wisconsin look to entrepreneurs and innovators to start and enhance potentially competitive companies.
As an entrepreneur and member of Wisconsin Economic Development Council, James Herman said that although Wisconsin has always prided itself on being the home of hard working employees, attitude and willingness are now the most important attributes to look for in new manufacturing hires.
“That concept has just about worn itself out. [Now] it’s all about hiring people with the right attitude,” Herman said.