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U.S. Manufacturing Decline Raises Concern About Innovation “We are not making the stuff we innovate”…

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U.S. Manufacturing Decline Raises Concern About Innovation @ NYTimes.com

Losing an industry or ceasing to manufacture a particular product, in this case stainless steel flatware, has indeed become a fairly frequent event. Just in the last few years, the last sardine cannery, in Maine, closed its doors. Stainless steel rebars, the sturdy rods that reinforce concrete in all kinds of construction, are now no longer made in America. Neither are vending machines or incandescent light bulbs or cellphones or laptop computers.

Less noticeably, American manufacturers are importing more of the components that go into their products. The imported portion has risen to more than 25 percent from 17 percent in 1997, according to Susan Houseman, a senior economist at the W.E. Upjohn Institute in Kalamazoo, Mich. The Boeing Company, to consider one striking example, once bought all of its components from American suppliers, or made them in its factories here. Now the wings of several of its airliners are manufactured by Japanese subcontractors and shipped across the Pacific in giant cargo planes.

Pictured above: A worker at the Sherrill Manufacturing flatware factory in Sherrill, N.Y., which closed its doors eight months ago – Dick Blume/The Post-Standard.

“The big debate today is whether we can continue to be competitive in R&D when we are not making the stuff that we innovate,” she says. “I think not; the two can’t be separated.” . “Young people stop thinking about making things,” Mr. Jordan says. “It is no longer in their heads. They have a different mental orientation.”



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1 Comment

  1. Well, the incandescent light bulb closure was a partnership between Congress and big business. ‘Old’ light bulbs (although inefficient) are cheap to make, and the manufacturer makes a higher margin on the CFL bulbs which, although more difficult to manufacture, are made in CHINA.

    Excellent story of the last US bulb factory here:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/09/07/AR2010090706933.html

    While the overt story was ‘incandescent bulbs are less efficient, let’s be green…’, surely the manufacturer is happy to have to switch to a higher-margin product, made overseas. After all, no one was prevented from buying CFLs before the outlaw of 100W incandescent bulb.

    Mike Y

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