Providence for Manufacturing: The Cicilline Plan

Manufacturing suffered a severe recession and prolonged economic hardship during the 2000s. During this time well-intentioned efforts at policy solutions, at best, slowed the sector’s bleeding. It did nothing to stitch or heal the wound writes John Hudak. New proposals in Congress seek to save manufacturing and resuscitate the overall economy. Hudak notes one plan, David Cicilline’s (D-RI) Make It In America Block Grant Program, is fairly unique, has received far less attention (than other proposals), and deserves examination and analysis.

In this paper, Hudak demonstrates the depth of the challenges manufacturing faced during the last decade and how the Cicilline proposal is an effective means of helping the sector rebound. Despite the benefits the plan offers, it faces seriously political obstacles that prevent it from passage. As a result, Hudak offers an alternative solution that not only provides a politically feasible path, but strengthens weaknesses in the proposal in ways that engage current federal resources.

Americans want to see action to help struggling manufacturers. A recent survey by the American Alliance for Manufacturing showed that 53percent of those polled rated manufacturing as the most important sector of the economy and noted that a large majority of Americans want assistance provided. The Block Grant Program offers a critical, cost-effective, common sense solution to this serious economic problem. Economic recovery in the United States depends on a thriving, healthy manufacturing sector and resources must be targeted achieve that goal.

Hudak examines the Block Grant Program and offers political and policy recommendations to advance the proposal, including:

  • A focus on the size of the manufacturing sector in states represented by Republican governors and legislators.
  • Being amenable to lower cost alternatives that may facilitate coalition building while providing (at least) some relief to manufacturers.
  • Working with the Department of Commerce to implement a small scale pilot program within the Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP).
  • Ultimately seeking to expand MEP to include existing assistance as well as additional block grant resources to state and local governments working to stabilize and revive manufacturing.

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