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'Buy American' movement has CNY manufacturers optimistic

Ellen Abbott
WRVO News File Photo
Crucible Steel in Geddes is one of many manufacurers in central New York that has seen declines over the last several years

“Buy American” has been the rallying cry on a number of fronts this month, from President Donald Trump in his inaugural address to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s “Buy American” plan in his legislative agenda for 2017.  And boosters of manufacturing in central New York say the Syracuse-area could benefit from the attention.

For years, central New York watched the decline of large manufacturers. And as companies like Carrier and New Process Gear left, so did jobs and population. The emphasis on “Buy American” could bring some of those jobs back, says Randy Wolken, of the Manufacturers Association of Central New York. But even if it does, the manufacturing landscape won’t look like it did in the old days.

“You won’t see a manufacturer of 25,000 workers anymore,” said Wolken. "They’re 100 to 500. Those are actually medium to large manufacturers these days. Welch Allyn, a worldwide producer, they’re around 600 people.”

There are several things working in central New York’s favor to become part of the “Buy American” focus. The price of energy is at an all-time low, cost wise. Additionally, capital is accessible, and there is an educated workforce, needed for the more high-tech manufacturing that’s happening today. Specifically, Wolken sees opportunities in the growing unmanned aerial drone industry and the semiconductor industry, among others. But he admits not everything is perfect.

“Workers comp reform has to happen,” said Wolken. “We need to lower the cost of workers comp.  Energy costs, we have to make sure they don’t dramatically go up because of the clean energy agenda. We need clean energy, but let’s not overburden both consumers and businesses by going too fast on those changes. We have to watch all those costs because they go into profitability.”

Regardless of these impediments, manufacturers are successful in the Syracuse-area, producing items ranging from high tech lighting systems to powdered metal. And that leaves Wolken very optimistic.

“In my tenure, I’ve been at MACNY for 15 years. This is the most optimistic, most productive time, to think about making things in the United States,” he said.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.