Thank you, Mark, for that kind introduction, and for hosting us here at the MBA Conference Center. And congratulations on 115 years of your company providing goods and services to the many generations of industrial firms that have benefited from your longevity. It says a lot about your company culture for it to have weathered countless downturns, big changes in technology, and the rise of global competitors. That’s quite an achievement.
Thank you also, John, for hosting us, and a special thanks to your members. Your organization is essential in helping companies connect with each other and to national networks to solve mutual problems. I know this is especially important in these challenging times.
We need more organizations like yours promoting the benefits of manufacturing and industry to the U.S. economy. Since fostering economic growth is job number-one for all of us, today is significant for American producers.
July 1 is the first day that the U.S. Mexico Canada Agreement enters into force – and this ground-breaking trade agreement couldn’t come at a better time. It fortifies the world’s largest trading block, and it provides American companies with a level playing field on our own continent for the first time since 1994. USMCA is the result of President Trump’s unwavering commitment to rebalance U.S. trade in favor of American producers and American workers. The agreement should be of particular help to Pennsylvania, the country’s tenth largest exporting state, and the backbone of our manufacturing economy.
Last year, Pennsylvania’s exports to Canada and Mexico topped $15 billion, representing 36 percent of the state’s total global exports. USMCA’s new rules of origin will help rebuild U.S. production that was outsourced to Asia, and it will go a long way to re-establishing domestic supply chains in many industrial sectors. USCMA increases North American content of vehicles to 75 percent, and it requires that up to 45 percent of the value of passenger cars be made by workers earning an average base-wage of at least $16 an hour.
Now, we finally have an agreement that levels the playing field for American workers. With the economic lockdowns required by the coronavirus pandemic, the last three-and-a-half months have not been easy for anyone.
More than 15,000 workers have been furloughed in Erie, 10 percent of whom were employed in manufacturing. Thankfully, most manufacturers have been proactive ─ and creative ─ in re-engineering production lines to protect their employees. Many have switched to producing life-saving PPE, and we are grateful for your doing so. As a result, there have been far fewer layoffs in manufacturing than in many service sectors.
We also hope the worst of the downturn is behind us. May’s job numbers were encouraging, as nearly 200,000 Pennsylvanians returned to work, with more than 25,000 of them headed back into manufacturing plants. Moreover, Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate remained below the national average.
One hopeful sign for a speedy recovery is reflected in the U.S. savings rate that has increased to 23.1 percent. Total bank deposits have jumped by $2.1 trillion during the past four months. It means that our financial institutions are sound, as compared to 2008. And as the economy opens with pent-up demand, these consumer savings will be spent in local businesses with more workers being rehired. Already, we are seeing healthy and record increases in retail sales.
Your region’s commitment to manufacturing should bode well for a strong recovery. As the one-time “Boiler and Engine Capital of the World,” Erie now supports more than 18,000 manufacturing jobs. At 17 percent of the local labor force, this is double the national average of 8.5 percent.
In the global competition for jobs and industries, Erie has many advantages, including:
• Your central location between major metropolitan areas;
• Your eight Opportunity Zones that will generate new investment in the downtown area.
• Your skilled workforce and excellent education and training institutions such as Penn State Erie, the Erie Business Center, and many others;
• The fact that you have such a diverse group of industries within your midst;
• An attractive cost of living and the availability of affordable housing;
• And an incredible setting overlooking one the world’s largest and most pristine fresh-water lakes.
• We hear there is a healthy stock of more than 100 million two-year-old walleye in Lake Erie right now ready to be caught by anglers.
You also have some great employers. Wabtec generated $2.7 billion in economic activity in Erie County alone, and the plastics industry has emerged as an economic force, with 10 percent of the nation’s plastics either manufactured or finished in Erie. I look forward to touring one of your area’s outstanding manufacturers later this morning, when we visit 91-year-old Howard Industries.
Now, I am eager to hear your ideas on how we can work together to accelerate our economic recovery, re-shore our industries, and generate thousands of great jobs for the workers of Erie and Northwestern Pennsylvania.