Special Feature: Book Review - Producing Prosperity: Why America Needs a Manufacturing Renaissance by Gilbert B. Kaplan and Lauren Donoghue

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Harvard Business School Professors Gary Pisano and Willy Shih make a strong case for focusing our country’s economic and policy efforts on reviving the manufacturing sector in their new book Producing Prosperity: Why America Needs a Manufacturing Renaissance. While the idea that manufacturing matters in the U.S. is one that many have come to agree on, Pisano and Shih lay out a concise and effective argument for why it matters and what should be done to turn around its decline. Their goal with this book is to educate government policymakers and corporate leaders on these key points and to make the argument that past decisions related to this sector have been short-sighted and ill-informed.

Pisano and Shih help us understand manufacturing’s connection to competiveness and its essential role in innovation. They shatter the idea of a “post-industrial” America as a natural progression away from labor-intensive work to a more knowledge-based workforce. Indeed, much of the book is spent focusing on the importance of the “industrial commons,” manufacturing and technical capacities that support innovation across a broad range of industries. Unlike those who argue that American companies should locate their manufacturing facilities in this country, or re-shore them as the case may be, as a patriotic gesture, they make the case instead that American companies investing in and supporting the industrial commons in which they operate can create competitive advantage. In other words, manufacture here to help your bottom line, not just because it may be the right thing to do.

The authors argue that we need a manufacturing renaissance in this country, and they offer several solutions for how to achieve this goal. Among the ideas they lay out for strengthening the foundations for manufacturing - in addition to their points on the industrial commons - is that we should invest in educating our workforce, increase government investment in science and technology, and develop a national manufacturing strategy. The prescriptions they offer are not only timely given the upcoming elections and the need to elicit specific answers from the candidates on what they would do to support American manufacturing, but they are also realistic goals that are within our grasp.

The Conference on the Renaissance of American Manufacturing, together with The Committee to Support U.S. Trade Laws (CSUSTL), Asia Policy Point, and the Kearny Alliance, had the honor of hosting a book discussion and reception with author Gary Pisano at the offices of King & Spalding earlier this month. A highlight video from the event can be found here.