AK Steel chief calls for changes to expand manufacturing

Published 9:56 am Wednesday, December 8, 2010

COLUMBUS — Calling manufacturing “the engine of our economy,’’ AK Steel CEO James L. Wainscott called for changes designed to nearly double the percentage of manufacturing that accounts for America’s Gross Domestic Product.

Today, manufacturing represents about 12 percent of America’s GDP, said Wainscott, Chairman, President and CEO of AK Steel. He called for changes to boost the percentage to 20 percent by 2020.

“Twenty percent by 2020,’’ Wainscott said. “Not only does it have a nice ring to it but it would do wonders for our jobs, for Ohio and our country. It would be our industrial renaissance.’’

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Wainscott made his comments during a Tuesday speech at the Ohio Statehouse to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Ohio Manufacturers’ Association.

He noted that America is home to the greatest workforce and greatest innovators and said the key to Ohio’s future prosperity is continued growth in manufacturing.

Gov. Ted Strickland, who also addressed the group, echoed the sentiment.

“America and Ohio must be places where we make things and produce things,’’ Strickland said, ‘’and nobody does that better than Ohioans and Ohio’s great companies.’’

To continue to grow manufacturing, Wainscott said, “We cannot and should not have to compete with foreign governments, which is what we are doing today.’’

To level the playing field, Wainscott called on American regulators to adopt a reasonable regulatory approach, “not one that strangles our global competitiveness,” and he urged enforcement of existing trade laws.

AK Steel is has been making steel in Ohio for 111 years. As a testament to Ohio’s innovation, Wainscott noted that the company broke ground earlier this year on its Middletown Works, the first dedicated research department in steel.

Continued research and innovation, like those employed by AK Steel, are helping Ohio’s manufacturers continue to adapt to global competition and are helping Ohio’s economy rebound, said OMA President Eric Burkland.

To understand the significance of Ohio’s manufacturers, it is important to see how they have adapted to changing markets and new technologies, Burkland said.

“Ohio’s innovators have provided the world with light and flight, tires with air, vacuum cleaners, premixed paints, rolled sheet steel, disposable diapers and  aluminum,’’ he said.  “Today, our innovators are making gears for windmills, state-of-the art medical equipment and coatings used by the military to better protect the underside of Humvees.’’

While Ohio has seen a decline in overall manufacturing jobs, manufacturing continues to be a major economic driver in Ohio, accounting for more than 600,000 Ohio jobs and making the  sector the state’s No. 1 supplier of non-government jobs. A recent study by Deloitte Consulting shows that Ohio remains a national leader in manufacturing.

The OMA was formed in 1910 in Parlor B of the Chittenden Hotel in Columbus, where 17 prominent Ohio manufacturers, responding to a letter of invitation from Colonel J. G. Battelle, gathered to form “an association of manufacturers.” The group adopted a Constitution “to promote the general welfare of productive industries in the State of Ohio” and “to keep prominently before the public the importance of such industries for the general prosperity of the State.”