Opinion: A focus on reforming regulations is the final piece of President Biden’s manufacturing agenda

President Joe Biden listens to Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger, left, as Intel factory manager Hugh Green and Intel manufacturing technician Michelle Blackwell listen, during a tour of the Intel Ocotillo Campus, in Chandler, Ariz., Wednesday March 20, 2024. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

President Joe Biden with Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger, left, Intel factory manager Hugh Green and Intel manufacturing technician Michelle Blackwell during a tour of the Intel Ocotillo Campus, in Chandler, Ariz., Wednesday March 20, 2024. Biden's Investing in America program has spurred a resurgence in domestic high-tech manufacturing, seen most recently in Microsoft's planned data center near Racine. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

By Mandela Barnes

May 10, 2024

Commentary from former Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes

If you want something built right, build it in Wisconsin.

As the son of a third-shift autoworker and a former Lt. Governor, I’m fond of that phrase, and I know it’s true. From engines to furniture to machines and metal, we build things in Wisconsin, and we build them right.

Today, the Badger State is home to more than 8,000 manufacturing companies that employ more than 480,000 workers. That’s nearly 20 percent of nonfarm jobs.

It is not an understatement to say that manufacturing underpins the Wisconsin economy. Therefore, it is critical that elected officials work together to keep the sector strong.

On this front, there’s good news. Over the last three years, President Biden has worked with Democrats and Republicans in Congress to spark a manufacturing revival, and Wisconsin is reaping the rewards.

Thanks to legislation like the American Rescue Plan, Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, and the CHIPS and Science Act, ground is being broken across the state on new plants that will provide high-paying, often-times union, jobs. Since all this legislation passed, private companies have committed to investing over $4 billion in our state.

What President Biden and Congress have done for manufacturing is historic, but now, manufacturers are asking for a little more help. Specifically, manufacturers have requested the White House better coordinate federal regulations and take steps to align federal rules with the administration’s manufacturing goals.

If recent action is any indication, the White House has gotten the message.

The last two months have seen the White House intervene with agencies like the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to make regulations more workable for manufacturers and the people they employ.

Consider, for example, recent White House action on an EPA rule that sets new emissions standards for cars and trucks. The timeline and standards EPA first proposed drew protests from industry and the United Auto Workers, the union that represented my dad. Following White House involvement, EPA produced a more flexible final rule that the union and industry have praised.

As more regulations are reviewed, it will be important for Wisconsin that the White House continue to ensure rules are balanced, achievable and grounded in the latest science. The last thing manufacturers need is more unnecessary red tape.

According to a recent study by US manufacturers, a small manufacturing firm spends $50,000 per employee complying with regulatory requirements. For a small business with 20 employees, that is $1 million a year!

Regulatory reform is one way to lift this burden. Even better, it will have an outsized impact on minority-owned manufacturers. According to the Department of Commerce, Wisconsin has around 500 minority-owned manufacturing firms. These Black, Hispanic, Asian and Native-owned firms are often small businesses for whom regulatory relief is especially important, as fixed regulatory costs take up a more significant share of their bottom line.

Of course, regulatory burden is not a problem that the Biden administration created. The cost of regulations on manufacturers has risen nearly every year between 2005 and 2023. It is refreshing, however, to see this White House address the problem by bringing balance to proposed rules and aligning them with the president’s legislative support for manufacturing.

Now, it is important to keep it up.




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