NAM’s 2018 ‘State of Manufacturing’ Tour stops in Birmingham

Jay Timmons, president of the National Association of Manufacturers, right, speaks with Altec Inc. CEO Lee Styslinger III during NAM's 2018 "State of Manufacturing" tour stop in Birmingham. (contributed)

The leader of the nation’s premier manufacturing trade group visited Birmingham’s Altec Inc. to provide company leaders and key Alabama officials with a high-level briefing on the industry’s outlook.

“It’s a great day to be in manufacturing, and it’s a great day to be in Alabama,” Jay Timmons, president and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), told the group.

During the meeting, Altec Chairman and CEO Lee Styslinger III moderated a discussion that included Timmons and other NAM officials and Altec executives. Also included were Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce, and Bill Canary, president of the Business Council of Alabama.

“The efforts by NAM have been crucial to developing policies that benefit American manufacturers,” Styslinger said. “Altec is proud to take part in discussions with leadership that move manufacturing forward for the state of Alabama and the rest of America.”

Timmons arrived in Alabama as part of NAM’s 2018 “State of Manufacturing” Tour, which has already taken him to Michigan, Kentucky and Indiana. Later this month, he’ll be in Kansas, California and Missouri.

The tour comes as manufacturers’ confidence in the future has skyrocketed. In the midst of tax reform and regulatory relief, 95 percent of respondents expressed a positive outlook for their companies’ future in the NAM’s latest Manufacturers’ Outlook Survey.

“Our focus on this tour is telling the story of modern manufacturing and the incredible opportunities we have for well-paying, rewarding careers — whether it’s a first career or a new career,” Timmons said.

While in Birmingham, NAM officials also visited Lawson State Community College and Innovation Depot, one of the South’s largest technology business incubators.

Manufacturing growth

Topics discussed during the meeting at Altec included a proposed federal infrastructure plan, tax reform and workforce development, particularly how to encourage young people to pursue careers in manufacturing.

Canfield told the group that the state’s robust manufacturing sector has been a key driver of employment growth in recent years.

Nearly 270,000 Alabamians held manufacturing jobs in January, and the sector has gained more than 36,000 jobs since 2011, an increase of 15 percent, according to data from the Federal Reserve Bank in St. Louis.

“Manufacturing, particularly advanced manufacturing, is a big part of our economy, so we want to do everything we can to support the right business climate, the right tax environment and the right regulatory environment,” Canfield said.

“We think that, with NAM’s work and our partnership with them, we will continue to see an improved environment for advanced manufacturing across the U.S., but particularly in Alabama,” he said.

Balancing trade

In addition, the group discussed thorny issues emerging in the debate over the future direction of NAFTA and global trade, which could profoundly affect industries and companies on many different levels.

“We have to tackle this trade issue because there are a lot of concerns and a lot of uncertainly circling trade,” Canfield said.

That’s important because many Alabama businesses are involved in exporting, driving the state’s overseas shipments to a new annual record in 2017.

Altec, for instance, delivers products and services to more than 100 countries. Founded in 1929, the company produces lift trucks and other products for customers in the electric utility, telecommunications, tree care and other industries.

This story originally appeared on the Alabama Department of Commerce’s Made in Alabama website.