Sue Helper on Manufacturing Our Economic Recovery

Spillover effects of manufacturing: wages, employment multipliers and innovation


  1. Sue Helper, PhD, is Frank Tracy Carlton Professor of Economics at Case Western Reserve University's Weatherhead School of Management and Chief Economist with the U.S. Commerce Department. She kicked off the City Club of Cleveland's 2014 Business Leaders Series in January with a talk on manufacturing, explaining why the sector "punches above its weight" as a driver for our economy and outlining its three major spillover benefits.
  2. Manufacturing offers a high concentration of skilled jobs that pay middle-class wages. Manufacturing workers then contribute to a healthy economy with their greater purchasing power.
  3. Even those who don't work in manufacturing enjoy its effects. The manufacturing sector supports job creation in other parts of the economy and raises wages and benefits by 38% overall.
  4. What are the other pluses of "onshoring"--moving or retaining manufacturing at home in the U.S.? It's a must for innovation and accounts for two-thirds of R & D.
  5. But isn't manufacturing declining in the U.S.? Helper negates this notion and goes on to highlight a Commerce Department tool that enables manufacturers to uncover the hidden costs of producing abroad.
  6. In order to make the most of each investment dollar, we need to develop industry clusters.
  7. Clusters such as those in Northeast Ohio are seen as national models in Washington, D.C.
  8. How can we compete with low-wage manufacturing industries such as China? Helper says that wages have actually risen in countries such as China and explains that the U.S. also competes with high-wage manufacturing countries like Germany.
  9. Watch Helper's whole speech and hear questions from the audience on the City Club's YouTube channel.