From lowering unemployment to boosting manufacturing, President Barack Obama is expected to tout gains in the U.S. economy during his State of the Union address on January 20. The president also has called for increased American innovation to help grow the middle class and help the United States compete globally.
When Drew Greenblatt bought Marlin Steel Wire Products in 1998, the workers were paid minimum wage and bent steel by hand to form wire baskets to hold bread.
Fast forward 17 years, and Marlin Steel’s nearly 30 workers now use American steel and million-dollar robotic machinery to manufacture products exported overseas while being paid a competitive wage with full benefits and performance incentives.
“That’s how we differentiate from China. It’s not by having lower-paid employees. It’s by having the best innovations, the smartest ideas and then having the talent to create those ideas,” said Greenblatt.
This idea was echoed by President Obama on January 9 when he and Vice President Joe Biden toured a polymer factory in Tennessee.
The president highlighted the gains in manufacturing with 786,000 jobs added in the last 58 months and announced a new hub that would bring the government, companies, and colleges together to create more high-tech manufacturing opportunities.
“We’ve got the most dynamic economy in the world, and we’ve got the best business people in the world and the best universities in the world. Let’s put them all together and make sure they’re working to create more good jobs and more opportunity for the American people,” said Obama.
Back at Marlin Steel in Baltimore, the innovation is driven by a team of mechanical engineers who design sheet metal fabrications for companies like German engineering company Bosch and Japanese car maker Toyota.
Workers, like Iraq War veteran Brent Fox, make the ideas a reality.
Fox has moved from line worker to team leader after learning new skills on the job and said he marvels at how the small wire-product company is able to compete against its foreign counterparts.
“Working and living in a global economy, it’s pretty impressive that places like this still exist in America, when it’s so much easier to just go buy it overseas and have it shipped,” said Fox.
As for Greenblatt, he said that with more trade deals, a better tax structure and greater protections for intellectual property, American companies like his can contribute to growing the U.S. middle class and helping the economy surge.
“Mark my words, the American manufacturing renaissance is here and it’s about to really blossom,” said Greenblatt.
Greenblatt said Marlin Steel is already adding more factory space to bring in more technology and hire more engineers.