Raimondo, Pallone make case for cabinet-level position for manufacturing

When U.S. companies compete for manufacturing facilities with other locations across the world, they often are competing against more than just tax incentives and wage costs — they are competing against other governments, too.

U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone (D-6th Dist.) said as much last week, during his conversation with U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo at the 2022 Middlesex County Business Summit — saying it’s not unusual to find nations have a secretary of manufacturing, if not a dedicated agency just to the sector.

While Pallone and Raimondo said creating a cabinet position would be nice, it might not be practical. Pallone, however, said a dedicated office — perhaps in the Commerce Department — created to handle manufacturing, resiliency and the supply chain would be a good start.

Raimondo agreed.

“We have to make this happen,” she said. “COVID put a big fat spotlight on how fragile our supply chain is. Nobody was talking about supply chains before COVID. Now, it’s a commonplace word because you realize, when you have a fragile supply chain, and you don’t make enough in America or nearby, you’re just vulnerable.

“Look at what we’re dealing with now: inflation disruptions, economies disrupted.”

Raimondo said such an office would be constantly monitoring and mapping the supply chain, especially for items such as medical devices and critical technology.

She said she is seeing firsthand how the U.S. is at a disadvantage.

“I don’t want to alarm anyone, (but) I have a few people on my staff working Excel spreadsheets, trying to map the supply chain,” she said. “In Germany and Japan and other countries, they have a team of people, much more sophisticated, mapping with supply chain, seeing where they’re vulnerable.”

The potential for disruption is too great if we’re too dependent on an area or country, Raimondo said.

Nearly the entire supply of computer chips comes from Taiwan. The same goes for solar panels and China, Raimondo said.

“How do we shore that up so that, if, God forbid, something happens in one of those countries,” she said, “it could be a natural disaster or virus or war (that could) shut down the United States of America.”

An office to oversee all supply chains issues is a must, Raimondo said.

“We have to do this on a constant, continuous basis, so we never again find ourselves so easily disrupted,” she said.