Last week, Vice President Joe Biden met with a group of executives from manufacturing companies to lay out a framework for boosting more manufacturing jobs in the United States.  At the meeting, the Vice president announced support for an Obama Administration sponsored program for $5 billion expansion in tax credits to encourage the manufacturing of wind, solar and other alternative energy technology.  This proposed additional credit is supposed to be part of the previous $787 billion economic stimulus package passed earlier this year, but needs additional legislation.  Interested companies in this tax credit are noted as Vestas Wind Systems A/S and First Solar Inc.

President Obama’s senior advisor for manufacturing policy had issued an earlier statement: “It is vital to have a concerted effort across the administration to support an innovative, vibrant manufacturing sector that creates and sustains good paying jobs.”  CEO’s attending this meeting noted that the administration needs to do more to open foreign markets and lower corporate taxes.

I’m sorry; while the intent is noble the effort is weak!  Enough already!

The last thing that thousands and thousands of unemployed or displaced manufacturing people in the U.S. need to hear is more political speak from their legislative and industry leaders. What apparently prompted this activity was outrage concerning a planned Texas wind farm that received more than $400 million in stimulus funding and has supposedly sourced a good portion of the manufacturing in China.

What is needed is concerted action. Somehow leaders in the U.S. do not clearly understand the fundamental tenants of supply chain.  In order to globally compete in innovative technology, you have to deploy a world-class supply chain capability, which either provides leading-edge innovation or competitive cost.  As Thomas L. Freidman so eloquently points out in his book, Hot, Flat, and Crowded, the ultimate winners of the global race for dominance in alternative energy innovation will be those countries that develop the infrastructure and supply chains to sustain such innovation.  The brute reality is that solar, wind, and other alternative energy companies are sourcing current activity outside the U.S. because they have either begun forming their own perceptions of where innovation resides, or that the profit motive overrides consideration of U.S. based production.

It has been more than a year since the Obama Administration and the Congress began discussion a comprehensive stimulus plan for the U.S. Politicians and manufacturing executives need to stop with the self-serving sound bites and get serious on building world-class alternative energy supply networks that reside in the U.S. Build the network, the jobs will follow. In case anyone forgot, the billions of dollars spent to save GM and Chrysler did not necessarily help the multitudes of key suppliers to that industry prepare for the new generation of technology.

Remember that rowing team analogy, every member of the team has to be rowing in the same cadence.  The U.S. does not need a senior advisor for manufacturing policy, rather it needs an advisor for building and sustaining competitive supply and value-chain networks.

 Bob Ferrari