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Speeches & Op-Eds

North Carolina Jobs Council Event

Speech Date: 
Monday, June 13, 2011
As Prepared For: 
Karen Mills, SBA Administrator

Thank you, Ellen.  It’s always a pleasure to be introduced by the CEO of a great American company like DuPont.  It’s great to be in this facility, which shows how advanced manufacturing and innovation can help us out-compete the rest of the world.

It’s good to be with businesses here in Raleigh-Durham that continue to build even more great American companies.

To this day, one of my favorite things to do is walk a factory floor.  Over the past two years, I’ve done that quite a bit around the country.  I’ve come to the conclusion that…

Now is a great time to be a U.S. manufacturer. 

Starting in 2000, the U.S. began to lose millions of jobs in manufacturing.  But, since the beginning of 2010, there’s been a slight resurgence.  250,000 U.S. manufacturing jobs have been added. 

In large part, that’s because the Made in America brand is hot.  I hope you saw the news last week.  The trade deficit shrank and the U.S. had record exports of over $175 billion in goods and services in April.Exports now account for about 25% of U.S. manufacturing jobs.

Overall, there will still be bumps in the road, but we’re headed in the right direction…

Manufacturing is critical to North Carolina’s economy. (NAM data)

You’ve got 10,000 manufacturers who provide good-paying jobs to about 400,000 people.  That’s about $73 billion in goods each year, ranging from food products, to computers, to machinery, to textiles, to plastics… Importantly, about $23 billion is exported, and nearly 90% of your exporters are small businesses.

Those are powerful numbers, but we can push them even higher.

In particular, we need to make sure that current and aspiring manufacturers have access to capital.  It’s been their top concern over the past 2 years.

Nearly 10% of SBA loans nationwide support small manufacturers. In 2010, that meant $1.6 billion in their hands at a time when credit was scarce due to the Recovery Act and the Small Business Jobs Act.  On top of that, nearly $2 billion more went to manufacturers through other SBA programs (SBIR, SBIC).

Today, we’re building on that success.For example, SBA manufacturing loans already had our highest limit of $4 million in our popular 504 program.  Through the Jobs Act, it’s even higher – $5.5 million.  It remains the highest limit of any of our loans.  Manufacturers are using these loans to buy bigger buildings and more equipment to put even more Americans back to work.  That’s exactly what we want to do: add to the 11.6 million Americans who currently work in manufacturing.

On that note, I’m sure you heard about the President’s speech last week at a community college in Virginia.

He mentioned how the auto industry is starting to turn around, in part due to tough decisions that he himself made.  But mostly, he talked about how we must out-educate the rest of the world to build a strong manufacturing workforce.

The problem is, right now, there’s a mismatch.There are a lot of people looking for manufacturing jobs.  At the same time, there are a lot of manufacturers looking for workers with particular skill sets.

So the President asked manufacturers and local community colleges to work more closely together.  The goal is to create a credentialing system that puts the student on clear and direct track to a good manufacturing job when they graduate.This could help 500,000 students be more prepared to work for businesses like yours when they come out of school…

We can’t stop there, either…We’re working across the Administration and the Jobs Council to target specific areas of manufacturing where we can get the biggest bang for our buck…

The supply chain is a great example.

Do we have any suppliers here today?  A recent study by the Center for an Urban Future showed that small suppliers got revenue growth of 250% and employment growth of 150% in just 2 or 3 years of working with larger corporations. That’s data we can’t ignore, especially at this crucial time.

Already, large U.S. firms know the value that a small supplier brings to the table.For example, several of them came together to create a single, standard online application – called Supplier Connection.  It allows small suppliers to market themselves to many large firms at the same time.

We need more ideas like that.  That’s what I’m looking forward to most in today’s discussion.

I hope you’ll help answer some of the most pressing questions:What are the policies?    What are the best practices? and where are the partnerships? … that can help manufacturers like you continue to grow and thrive in the months and years to come?

Thank you for helping us explore that today, as we work to ensure that America’s manufacturers can help us win the future.