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Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Julie Lassa: Bills will help Wisconsin get in on manufacturing boom


By Julie Lassa
Nationwide, manufacturing expansion continues to lead the recovery of the U.S. economy. After slowing somewhat in the second half of 2012, manufacturing came back strong in December, posting its biggest gains since April, according to the Institute for Supply Management index of national factory activity. Both its new factory orders index and its manufacturing employment gauge showed big increases at the end of the year.

With its robust and diverse manufacturing base, Wisconsin should be well poised to take advantage of the uptrend in manufacturing. Yet our state continues to lag behind the region and the nation in new job growth. Clearly, Wisconsin needs to be more proactive to compete for jobs in the expanding manufacturing sector.

To address this need, Rep. Andy Jorgensen (D-Fort Atkinson) and I have introduced two bills that together are known as Marketing Manufacturers and Keeping Employees (MMAKE). Both address a key element of growing Wisconsin's manufacturing base – strengthening the supply chains of major manufacturers to increase orders for Wisconsin companies.

You've probably heard about the "multiplier effect" – job creation in one sector of the economy promotes job growth elsewhere as well. In manufacturing, a big part of the multiplier effect works through supply chains, the smaller manufacturers that produce parts and assemblies that go into finished products. Big manufacturers like their supply chains close at hand to reduce shipping costs and delivery times. These smaller manufacturers are important to our economy because they are the kind of small companies that create most new jobs. Acquiring a large new customer can allow a company like this to double its workforce quickly. One way that we can promote job growth is to help build awareness and relationships between these small manufacturers and the big companies whose needs they can serve.

The first part of MMAKE would create a series of regional trade and marketing forums specifically for the purpose of developing business relationships between major manufacturers and Wisconsin-based suppliers, many of which cannot currently afford staff to promote their products on a national or global level. By helping to connect and foster relationships between major manufacturers and Wisconsin suppliers, we can make it easier for companies to expand their supply chain relationships and create good-paying jobs here at home.

The second MMAKE bill creates and funds a five-year marketing plan to boost business for small to mid-sized manufacturers and to help Wisconsin's large manufacturers establish mutually-beneficial supply chains within the state. Unlike traditional business development marketing, this program will focus specifically on the development of supplier relationships, taking a very targeted approach that focuses on the customer's motivation to enhance their bottom line on their existing products.

These MMAKE bills are an example of ways state government can work to promote the growth of home-grown companies to create good paying jobs that stay in Wisconsin. Because manufacturing growth is a leading trend in the national economic recovery, it makes sense to strengthen this sector in which Wisconsin has so often been a national leader. I hope these proposals will receive strong bipartisan support in the legislature.

-- Lassa, D-Stevens Point, represents Wisconsin's 24th Senate District.

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