By Rep. Bradley Byrne
President Donald Trump recently devoted a week to celebrating the importance of “Made in America” products with special events at the White House. I was pleased to see the president shining a spotlight on the many first-class items produced here in the United States.
I often meet with manufacturing leaders from across Alabama during their visits to Washington, D.C. or during visits to their facilities back in Alabama. We discuss issues affecting our state’s manufacturing industry, the importance of infrastructure investments, as well as policy ideas that will spur industry growth, create jobs and boost our local economy.
Iron and steel companies are often a key part of the conversation. While iron and steel manufacturing is not new to Alabama, we currently face challenges critical to the health of the industry.
Alabama has a rich history of manufacturing, with iron and steel serving as a key backbone of our state’s economy. Manufacturing in Alabama currently accounts for over 252,000 jobs – 11.7 percent of the total employment in the state and 11.71 percent of the gross state product. More than 60,000 of these jobs are supported by the steel industry. But, with opportunities on the horizon, we can do better.
As a member of Congress, I am constantly looking for solutions to improve job opportunities, expand local industries and support our future workforce. To accomplish this, we must implement pro-business policies that will strengthen the steel manufacturing industry and promote homegrown economic activity.
In April, Trump signed an executive order to “Buy America,” which aims to use American-made goods for taxpayer-financed infrastructure. Buy America has broad bipartisan support and ensures that we first look to U.S. manufacturers instead of overseas competitors.
Buy America is a simple, commonsense policy: American tax dollars spent on public projects should stay in the states and support our national economy. We shouldn’t subsidize jobs overseas when cost-competitive and quality goods are available here.
As we have continued discussions surrounding the need to improve our infrastructure, U.S. companies should have the first opportunity to supply materials used to build roads, bridges, ports, water systems and other critical infrastructure.
Buy America preferences prevent us from relying on other countries, like China, for steel and other materials used for producing infrastructure and our national defense systems such as fighter jets, tanks and ships.
These countries capitalize on excess steel production overcapacity and subsidized imports, creating a detrimental impact on the industry. That, along with tough environmental and labor regulations, makes it critically important to support policies that promote local steel manufacturing.
The impact of supporting the local steel industry goes far beyond the jobs related to the specific manufacturer. For every domestic steel-manufacturing job, it has a seven-fold impact in the economy, creating jobs in the community beyond those directly employed.
Alabama is home to some of the most advanced and best manufacturing facilities in the world as well as a talented, skilled workforce that can compete with anyone.
While progress has been made, there is much work to be done. Alabama’s strong tradition of producing iron and steel has positioned our state for future growth. It is time we take positive action to support this sector by implementing policies that keep our jobs, tax dollars and industries in Alabama.
I am proud of the hardworking men and women who support Alabama’s steel industry, and I look forward to continuing to advance policies that create a positive impact for the industry and our economy.