Vermeer Corporation took part in a historic celebration with the National Association for Manufacturers (NAM) on Jan. 22.

Jay Timmons, NAM’s president and CEO, made a stop at the Vermeer Global Pavilion to celebrate the association’s 125th anniversary and to deliver his State of Manufacturing Address.

“For 125 years, NAM, your NAM, has led the business community and fought for all those who make things in America,” said Timmons. “All of you in this room, and the 13 million men and women in this industry … are part of historic history of building or exceptional history.”

The relentless drive to build solutions, like the corporation’s founder, Gary Vermeer, is what powered manufacturing to this day, Timmons said. According to Timmons, the manufacturing industry contributes $2.4 trillion to the U.S. economy, which makes up 19 percent of the Iowa economy.

Timmons addressed the misconception of automation and the fear of job loss in the manufacturing industry, stating members see this as their top concern. However, Timmons said 4.6 million manufacturing jobs will be available in the next eight years.

“Technology makes us safer, it’s more effective,” said Timmons. “Some jobs are going to shift, often to higher-skilled, higher-tech positions, but people will always be what makes this industry possible.”

NAM is launching a capital campaign titled Creators Wanted, which will support programs of the Manufacturing Institute, including the STEP Ahead Women’s Initiative, youth engagement and Heroes Make America. This spring, the campaign will launch a mobile tour across the country to engage the public with hands-on experiences to address workforce challenges.

The Vermeer Foundation has donated $100,000 to the campaign. Additionally, Pella Corporation made a $100,000 contribution of its own.

“I’m very proud that the Vermeer Foundation and my parents and Pella Corporation have made the generous contributions that they have to this effort,” said Jason Andringa, Vermeer Corporation’s president and CEO. “For years now, our number one concern at Vermeer is getting the skilled workforce that we need to continue to grow like we have. And it’s not only Vermeer, but when we talk to our dealers and our customers, we hear the exact same thing from them.”

NAM’s recent quarterly manufacturing outlook survey shows 68 percent of those in the manufacturing industry have a positive outlook on the business. Timmons said this is a decrease from 2018, which showed a record-high level of optimism at 90 percent.

Although NAM does not endorse presidential candidates or elected leaders, Timmons said the success of the manufacturing industry depends on leadership that enacts and exemplifies four core values: free enterprise, competitiveness/a level playing field, individual liberty and equal opportunity.

“What matters isn’t party, or personality, or politics, or process,” said Timmons. “What matters is good policy.”

Timmons said NAM released their Competing to Win blueprint for 2020, which is a manufacturing agenda on 11 key policy areas for candidates and elected officials to enable the country for continued competition and success in the industry.

Timmons praised the Phase 1 agreement with China, stating the U.S. must continue to hold the country accountable. He also emphasized the importance of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement for continued success and growth.

Going forward, Timmons said energy regulations that allow the U.S. to keep innovating and delivering reliable energy, like oil, gas, nuclear, solar, wind and renewables, are needed in order to improve the environment and tackle climate change.

Additionally, Timmons said NAM’s Building to Win plan will work to address the nation’s infrastructure. NAM is requesting $1 trillion in investment and infrastructure to fix collapsing bridges, unclog highways and deploy 5G capabilities, among others. Timmons went on to say the nation’s broken infrastructure system costs each American family $3,400 per year.

“The gridlock on our highways in unacceptable, but the gridlock in congress is no excuse,” said Timmons.

On immigration, Timmons said manufactures want a comprehensive solution that fixes border security, addresses economic strategy and, more importantly, shows compassion.

“We have a full plan ready to go, it’s called ‘A Way Forward’ at NAM,” said Timmons. “So don’t tell manufactures that this can’t be done, and don’t tell me we don’t have room for immigrants that want to contribute to this country either, because there are more jobs to fill in America than unemployed people to fill them. Don’t forget that nearly half of Fortune 500 companies were actually founded by immigrants or by their children.”

On healthcare, Timmons said a government for all plan is “just not going to cut it with manufacturers.”

“At the same time, we need to protect our ability to deliver the life-saving cures that manufacturers make,” said Timmons.

According to Timmons, 98 percent of NAM companies offer health benefits. He says NAM would like “more flexibility” in order to offer more coverage. Timmons also said smaller manufacturers with 2-99 employees have access to plans that are usually only available for larger companies at NAM.

Timmons encouraged those in the manufacturing industry to vote.

“Some Americans are losing faith in our system because their concerns go unaddressed,” said Timmons. “Business leaders need to be unafraid to speak up to these concerns as we champion for an even stronger free enterprise system that lifts everybody up and leaves no one behind.”

Emily Hawk can be reached at ehawk@pellachronicle.com or by calling the newsroom at 641-628-3882.

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