Building a nation of makers

Building a nation of makers

Former Governor Haley Barbour (R-MS) and former Governor and Senator Evan Bayh (D-IN) co-chaired the Milstein Symposium's first commission. Its focus was on improving the middle class through reforms to new manufacturing that are actionable, nonpartisan, and impactful. 

The full Commission met in October of 2013 in Washington, D.C. in a closed door session at the historic Hay-Adams Hotel. The final report, entitled, "Building a Nation of Makers: 6 Ideas to Accelerate the Innovative Capacity of America's Manufacturing SME's," was released in April of the following year. 

Group membership featured leaders from the policy, business, academic, and journalism communities. The group's stated goal was to define and advance innovative, nonpartisan, and action-oriented ideas and policies to help rebuild the American Dream through improvements in manufacturing. 

The Commission: 

  • Evan Bayh, former U.S. Senator (D-IN) and Governor of Indiana
  • Haley Barbour, former Governor of Mississippi
  • Rebecca O. Bagley, president and chief executive officer, NorTech, a technology-based economic development organization focusing on Northeast Ohio 
  • Aaron Bagshaw, president, WH Bagshaw Co., the oldest pin manufacturer in the United States
  • Matthew Burnett, founder, Maker’s Row, a company endeavoring to simplify the manufacturing process by connecting designers to domestic manufacturers
  • W. Bernard Carlson, chair, U.Va. Department of Engineering and Society; professor of science, technology and history, and the commission’s lead scholar
  • Jennifer Clark, associate professor at the School of Public Policy and director of the Center for Urban Innovation in the Ivan Allen College, Georgia Institute of Technology
  • John Engler, president, Business Roundtable; former governor of Michigan
  • James Fallows, national correspondent, The Atlantic
  • James Manyika, director, McKinsey Global Institute; senior partner, McKinsey & Company
  • Kate Sofis, executive director, SFMade, a non-profit corporation working to bolster San Francisco’s economic base through local manufacturing
  • Howard Wial, director, Center for Urban Economic Development, University of Illinois, Chicago

The final document put forth six innovative ideas: 

1. Talent Investment Loans: Government-backed loans to small businesses for the hiring and training of new employees. Incentives would be built to encourage social and economic goods such as worker retention or skill certification. 

2. Upside-Down Degrees: Students gain the ability to transfer accredited technical and/or military training, work experience, or community college coursework as credit towards a Bachelor's degree. 

3. Skills Census: Regular survey of employers to determine current and projected human capital needs. Findings would be made public on a government-hosted web platform so that consumers, employers, educators and policymakers would all have more accurate real-time data on the job market. 

4. National Supply Chain Initiative: A fully-mapped manufacturing supply chain to help businesses and policymakers keep up with rapidly changing ecosystems. 

5. Expand Technology and Engineering Certification Programs: Expand electives in technology and engineering with optional, industry-recognized certification exams for high school students to better the national labor pool. 

6. Big Trends-Small Firms Initiative: The Commerce Department's Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) would be engaged to connect small- and medium-sized manufacturers with the latest trends as a means of keeping up with larger competitors. 

Bayh summarized the spirit of the Commission: “For generations, small- and medium-sized manufacturers have provided stable, good-paying jobs for middle-class Americans. As we move rapidly into the 21st-century global economy, we need fresh thinking to ensure that these companies can continue to grow and put people to work.”