Just Whistle

ith the current anti-manufacturing bias of US policy makers — in addition to US trade
policies directed by global politics rather than sound economics — the textile industry, and US
manufacturing in the broadest sense, are struggling for their very existence. For those — and there
are many — who feel textiles is an old, low-tech industry, maybe a trip to ITMA 2003 in Birmingham
would provide an education. US plants and mills around the world are poised to see the latest
developments in textile technology that not only increase the productivity and flexibility of the
manufacturing process, but also illustrate the potential for new products and innovation.

In a recent business commentary, the author pointed to innovation in the United States as a
remedy for the flight of jobs to low-cost countries — with the finance and banking sectors holding
the keys to the future of the US economy. In general, however, there is a sense that influencers of
current policy have never spent a working day in the modern manufacturing environment, and simply
dismiss it with a sense that manufacturing is both beneath them and simply unimportant to the
future of the United States. This elitist attitude is disrespectful of the tremendous strides US
manufacturers have made over the years in labor, workplace safety and environmental sensitivity,
not to mention innovation in both product and process.

The language the anti-manufacturing choir chooses places anyone seeking fairness,
enforcement and structural awareness (for example, of currency foolery) in the corner of
antiquated, protectionist thinkers. This simply is not the case. Most manufacturers today are
globally aware, heavily invested companies with interest in partnerships and global growth.
However, systemic cheating undermines the ability of foreign and domestic manufacturers that play
by the rules to forge these relationships based on sound business practices.

Globally, there are firms in every corner of the world worthy of the respect and admiration
of their industrial peers. Very few US textile industry executives hold anything less than respect
for these companies. It appears the responsibility for enforcement, however, doesn’t fall to the
private sector — unfortunately, it’s the US government’s job. Even if a sense of competitive
fairness is achieved through US policy, it is enforcement that makes it happen.

Any game can have good rules, but without a referee who is not afraid to blow the whistle,
the game, its competitors and the outcome are not done justice. With that in mind, one wonders if
the current administration has the fortitude to enforce the rules, or has it simply lost its

September 2003