Direct Your Angry E-Mails Elsewhere

The Obama administration wants to know what you think should be included in its manufacturing policy, so put the politics aside and get involved.

By JOEL HANS, Associate Editor, IMPO

Fan of the Obama administration or not, it’s clear that we need a new direction on our country’s manufacturing policy. We’ve needed one for a long time, actually — before President Obama took office, and before President Bush won for the first time in 2000. It’s not a matter of Democrat vs. Republican. I think every rational person in this country can agree that manufacturing is critical to an American economy and that something has to change.

Instead of appealing to the usual suspects for advice on making policy, the Obama administration has decided to do something different. Under the Open Government initiative, this administration has opened up the floor to the people actually involved in manufacturing’s nuts and bolts. The idea is simple, and it’s called “crowdsourcing.” Instead of hearing policy ideas from CEOs who pull in more than a million dollars a year, this administration wants the men and women in manufacturing to make proposals and vote on what they consider the most beneficial ideas toward a comprehensive manufacturing policy.

Sounds simple, huh? It is. Just head over to the website, register for an account, and start voting. Better yet, start making your ideas heard.

I know there’s a lot of lingering doubt over the government and its attention to regular citizens — distrust among the people is at impressive lows.

Manufacturers wonder if the government will enact the correct policy to stem the tide of operations moving overseas, and it’s a fair concern. While some favor ramping up protectionism to prevent imports from the likes of China, others believe that opening the markets to increased free trade, free of tariffs, will reinforce America’s manufacturing prowess. Everyone seems doubtful that the government is listening at all. Doubt and pessimism don’t get us very far, though.

Think about your business. When the economy started to tank, what did you do? Did you just accept guilt and do nothing to even mitigate the damage? If you did, well, you’re likely not in business any more. The smart-thinkers and the truly successful are ready and willing to face the next Great Depression if we have to, because they’re ready with new ideas and strategies to fight all these losses in American manufacturing.

You, too, must have some ideas wandering around in your head. Maybe they seem a bit silly to you, like my idea that we would be a lot more productive as a country if we got free ice cream every time we crossed something off our to-do list. I know I’ve been padding my list just in case the call comes down from the freezer. But who knows? Your “silly” idea might have traction, and if you put it for the crowd to analyze and decide upon, you just might help shape the future of our manufacturing policies. You might even become the next manufacturing “czar.”(If you’re uncomfortable with that name, you can also choose to be called the “manufacturing ace-in-the-hole” or the “manufacturing big enchilada.”)

I don’t expect this idea of the Obama administration crowdsourcing our manufacturing policy to go over well with a good portion of Chem.Info's readers. But if you would rather spend your time writing me a negative comment about the Obama administration than registering a suggestion or voting on the already-posted topics, you’re doing everyone, including yourself, a disservice. As far as I know, I’m not yet the “manufacturing big enchilada,” so your opinions don’t go any further than my inbox.

So instead of hitting “send,” head over to the website and put your idea on the table. Or comment on what is already there. At least submit a few votes to the ideas you think are most important to you. Consider this a rare opportunity to help shape policy that would otherwise be relegated to high-falutin organizations and members of Congress. How often do we get the opportunity to have our voice heard about all the noise and distraction of 21st century life? I like to consider myself an optimist, and one idea from an otherwise unknown manufacturing operation in the quiet corn fields of Ohio can do, well, just about anything.

To appease the email-loving types, you can always send me a message at But I’ll be sorely disappointed if you ping my inbox before at least giving this crowdsourcing thing a chance.