A Crystal Ball From Some Experts on Midwest Manufacturing

Midwestern manufacturing activity continued to inch up – albeit a fractional amount – in September compared with August, according to data published by the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago last week. More importantly, when compared with last year, regional manufacturing in September rose 7.2% from a year earlier. National output increased 4.3% in that same period..

Fast forward to January 2013, when our next president will be inaugurated. What’s your best (and worst) case scenario for manufacturing?

That’s the question we posed to the four panelists who will speaking at a manufacturing breakfast in Chicago on Thursday sponsored by Changing Gears/WBEZ and Crains Chicago Business.

Jan Allman, Ford Motor Co.

Jan Allman

Chicago Assembly Plant Manager, Ford Motor Company

“Manufacturing – and the auto industry in particular – has a key role to play in strengthening our economy and creating jobs. In fact, a recent Los Angeles Times article said that [the] ‘carmakers’ rebound is driving jobs in the U.S. The industry that once needed bailing out could be the one to stave off recession.”

“It’s hard to predict the future for the manufacturing sector as a whole, but by following our One Ford business plan, we expect Ford to be in a strong position as we celebrate our next presidential inauguration. Thanks to our recent UAW-Ford national contract agreement, we will be adding 12,000 jobs in our U.S. manufacturing facilities by 2015 and we will be busy investing more than $6 billion in our U.S. plants.”

Marty Ozinga, Ozinga Ready Mix Concrete

Marty Ozinga

Executive Vice President, Ozinga Ready Mix Concrete, Inc.

“Inauguration Day 2013 is less than fifteen months from now.  On the one hand, a lot can happen in fifteen months on the other, it is here before we know it. So much of what it will look like will depend upon the attitudes that those of us in leadership have between now and then.  I am continually impressed by the spirit of the American entrepreneur, perhaps especially in the Midwest. In spite of an incredibly difficult economy, people in business are working harder than ever to adapt to a new reality and respond appropriately for the future.”

“I am confident and even optimistic that the manufacturing sector in the Midwest is headed for better days. But the leadership issue cannot be overstated. Strong leadership is critical at all levels of a business organization, in the public sector and in the not-for-profit world. If individuals, organizations, communities and our government, don’t take the necessary steps of leadership, in fifteen months, it won’t just be the Midwest manufacturers that will be in trouble.”

Marc Shulman, Eli's Cheesecake Co.

Marc S. Schulman

President, Eli’s Cheesecake Company

“Hopefully January of 2013 will be warm and the Bears will marching to the Super Bowl. Good Chicago football and good weather really help people buy more Eli’s Cheesecake & Desserts.”

“For our desserts, it is all about consumer confidence and taking the opportunity to celebrate and have a treat—personally, for your family or for your business. Jobs are critical to that celebration. An economy creating jobs is a good one for a company like ours.”


Eric Treiber, Chicago White Metal Casting

Eric Treiber

President/CEO, Chicago White Metal Casting, Inc.

“Best Case scenario for Midwestern manufacturing on Inauguration Day 2013? The Senate comes under the control of policy makers who truly understand that manufacturing is the economic engine that drives our country, and the House remains in control of those who at this time are aggressively supporting responsible manufacturing all across America (i.e., leaders such as Mr. Boehner, Mr. Cantor, Mr. McCarthy, and Mr. Roskam).  As for the president, it makes no difference to me if it is a man or a woman, a Democrat or a Republican.”

“I only ask that it is a person who had some prior business experience before turning to politics, and that they can grasp the concept of how job creation in the private sector really happens, as well as being able to understand the policies and legislation that need to be enacted in order to foster such growth.”

Worst Case scenario for Midwestern manufacturing on Inauguration Day 2013? “The complete opposite of the above.”

Join Changing Gears, WBEZ and Crain’s Chicago Business on Thursday to hear more from these panelists.

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