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Opinion: Manufacturers begin long journey back

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For a decade, manufacturing in America weakened and 6 million small-business manufacturing jobs were lost, decreasing by 33 percent 1997–2009, according to an April report in The Wall Street Journal.

This last year, however, marks a change.

American manufacturers are ramping up and adding needed jobs to our economy. U.S. manufacturers now employ more than 11.6 million Americans, and despite a small recent decline, manufacturing has added 238,000 jobs since the beginning of 2010. While these jobs represent only 13 percent of the jobs lost during the recent recession, we are witnessing the best period of manufacturing job growth in more than a decade. Manufacturing and product exports have once again become major fuel for our nation’s higher gross domestic product.

Thirty-seven states added manufacturing jobs between April 2010 and April 2011, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, with Missouri adding 8,200 jobs; Iowa, 4,300; Nebraska, 1,800; and Kansas, 1,700.

We know government and private-sector efforts have helped turn the tide and that exports are driving profits and growth. Manufacturers exporting to other nations are gaining from higher expendable incomes of foreign consumers and governments. The president’s National Export Initiative aims to double U.S. exports in two years.

“‘Made in America’ is red-hot overseas; it’s a brand that people are really buying,” SBA Administrator Karen Mills said on the recent CNBC’s series “Made in America,” which explored how American goods are perceived and selling in other countries.

International demand for U.S. products has increased because foreigners desire quality. Our entrepreneurs not only build better mousetraps, they out-innovate.

To help companies meet export and growth demand, the SBA has ramped up, too, with counseling, technical and export assistance, and financing for small manufacturers and their supply chain companies. SBA’s free downloadable Export Planner is now available at www.sba.gov/exportbusinessplanner. With the ability to more efficiently manufacture and export product, American manufacturers have a chance to out-compete.

In the Kansas City SBA district territory, which includes the Springfield area, the SBA has guaranteed 55 loans supporting $32 million to manufacturers since Sept. 1. Regionally, SBA has guaranteed 204 loans to manufacturers supporting almost $108 million.

Examples of manufacturing jobs on the rise aren’t hard to find. Rick Jones, owner of Label Solutions Inc. in Marshfield, started with nine employees and today employs 35.

During 22 years, he has expanded and bought equipment with two SBA-guaranteed loans to keep up with a growing client base for industrial gas cylinder labels. He is now the largest supplier of them in the country.

Through various business partnerships and programs, we can help continue the rise of American manufacturing.

Patricia Brown-Dixon is Region VII administrator for the U.S. Small Business Administration, serving Missouri, Kansas, Iowa and Nebraska. She has worked for the U.S. General Services Administration for more than 25 years, with a focus on small businesses. Brown-Dixon can be reached through www.sba.gov.[[In-content Ad]]

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