Q DO YOU BELIEVE AMERICA IS UNDERGOING A MANUFACTURING RENAISSANCE AND WHY?
DC: Yes, and it is first and foremost a revolution in technology and productivity. From engineered biologics to big data, there is—and will continue to be—a vast leap forward in how products are designed, made and distributed. Aided by inexpensive energy, but potentially impeded by bad government policy, the technological revolution in manufacturing is here to stay. I don’t believe, however, that there will be a substantial renaissance in the kind of manufacturing people have nostalgia for—mass creation of low-technology goods using low or unskilled labor. The United States has no inherent advantages in that kind of manufacturing. We will, though, create jobs—good, high-paying jobs—but they will require high skills and the ability to adapt to rapidly changing technology.
Q WHAT ROLE DOES THE MIDDLE MARKET HAVE IN DRIVING MANUFACTURING GROWTH?
DC: Small to mid-sized companies will play a huge role in America’s manufacturing renaissance because technology will make scale continually less important. Innovation will be the winning attribute, not the ability to mobilize mass resources. Consider 3-D printing technology. Even if it doesn’t become like a Star Trek “replicator,” 3-D printing will foster an ever-growing emphasis on the value of design over production. I strongly believe that our coming technological revolution will, in almost all respects, be a friend to small businesses and entrepreneurship.
DAVID C. CHAVERN is executive vice president and chief operating officer at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. He is chair of the Chamber’s Management Committee and is responsible for day-to-day operations and long-term planning. Chavern also is founder and president of the Chamber’s Center for Women in Business.