President Biden Shines a Spotlight on Manufacturing in State of the Union Address

By Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch
Feb 08 2023 |
“We are the United States of America and there is nothing, nothing beyond our capacity if we do it together,” President Biden said on Tuesday. Photo via @POTUS on Twitter

And he announces new Buy America standards to “require all construction materials used in federal infrastructure projects to be Made in America.”

President Biden used much of his State of the Union address on Tuesday night to tout his administration’s progress in strengthening American manufacturing, citing the 800,000 factory jobs and $300 billion worth of investments that have been created over the past two years.

Biden also used the speech to officially announce new Buy America standards for infrastructure projects, which will require that “all construction materials used in federal infrastructure projects to be made in America,” including products like lumber, glass, drywall, and fiber optic cables. While such standards have been on the books since 1933, “past administrations have found ways to get around it,” Biden noted.

“Not anymore,” he said, later adding: “On my watch, American roads, American bridges, and American highways will be made with American products.”

The president argued that because of new laws like the Inflation Reduction Act, CHIPS and Science Act and Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, even more factory jobs will be created, and in places that have been left behind in previous economic recoveries. Biden specifically cited the upcoming Intel semiconductor factory outside Columbus, Ohio as proof of this, noting 10,000 new jobs will be created, with average salaries of $130,000 a year, many of which will not require a college degree.

“Where is it written that America can’t lead the world in manufacturing again? For too many decades, we imported products and exported jobs,” Biden said. “Now, thanks to all we’ve done, we’re exporting American products and creating American jobs.”

Of course, much work lies ahead. Despite significant U.S. investments in production in 2022, the U.S. trade deficit reached nearly $1 trillion last year, showcasing how dependent the United States remains on imports for the things we need. And while companies have privately invested $700 billion in manufacturing, utilities and energy, many of factories remain in the planning stages.

But there’s no doubt that the current presidential administration has made manufacturing growth a priority, and Biden talked a whole lot about manufacturing in his speech. Early on in his remarks, he discussed what the U.S. lost when it shifted production abroad:

“For decades, the middle class was hollowed out. Too many good-paying manufacturing jobs moved overseas. Factories at home closed down. Once-thriving cities and towns became shadows of what they used to be. And along the way, something else was lost.

“Pride. That sense of self-worth.

“I ran for President to fundamentally change things, to make sure the economy works for everyone so we can all feel pride in what we do. To build an economy from the bottom up and the middle out, not from the top down. Because when the middle class does well, the poor have a ladder up and the wealthy still do very well. We all do well.”

Biden focused mostly on domestic policy in his remarks, but did take a few moments to spend some time on foreign policy. Along with pledging continued support for Ukraine, Biden said that he has taken a strong stance against the People’s Republic of China and Chinese leader Xi Jinping, arguing that “before I came to office, the story was about how the People’s Republic of China was increasing its power and America was falling in the world. Not anymore.”

Here’s more:

“I’ve made clear with President Xi that we seek competition, not conflict.

“I will make no apologies that we are investing to make America strong. Investing in American innovation, in industries that will define the future, and that China’s government is intent on dominating.

“Investing in our alliances and working with our allies to protect our advanced technologies so they’re not used against us. Modernizing our military to safeguard stability and deter aggression.

“Today, we’re in the strongest position in decades to compete with China or anyone else in the world.”

Alliance for American Manufacturing President Scott Paul said in a statement that Biden was “correct to note” that policies pursued by his administration helped create many of the 800,000 new factory jobs over the past two years. Paul added that “there’s clearly a long way to go to rebuild broken supply chains and boost our production” but “like the president, I am truly optimistic that the United States can still do big things — and that includes building a Made in America future.”

Enforcement of the Build America, Buy America provisions of the infrastructure law are key to building that future, Paul said. The good news is that the policy is widely popular: 83% of registered voters recently surveyed by Morning Consult for AAM said they think taxpayer money used for infrastructure projects should be spent on American-made products versus materials imported from other countries.

Click here to read Scott Paul’s full statement on the State of the Union address.