The U.S. manufacturing resurgence – not just Washington’s job


There’s no shortage of conversation around the manufacturing industry on Capitol Hill. In June at the National Association of Manufacturers Summit, Vice President Pence remarked that American manufacturers haven’t been this optimistic in 20 years.

It’s an exciting time to be in the industry. At this very moment, manufacturers employ more than 12 million Americans in all 50 states. With Washington promising the creation of nearly 3.5 million manufacturing jobs in the next decade, it’s hard not to be optimistic about the future. But – and I speak for any and all industries here – we mustn’t make the mistake of letting optimism become complacence.

While MCFA is known as a manufacturer and distributor of forklifts, our business is also part of a larger family consisting of nearly 1,200 employees and 60 independently-owned dealerships with more than 400 locations across the U.S. Almost all of these businesses are family-owned, employing thousands of workers in total. I’m proud to be part of this larger network and see each of these folks as my priority.

What can I (and you) do to ensure we aren’t merely waiting for change to happen to us? Rather, how can we take the bull by the horns to usher in transformation for ourselves and our employees?

Headquartered in Houston, MCFA is a leading manufacturer and distributor of forklifts in North, Central and South America and employs more than 1,200 workers.
Headquartered in Houston, MCFA is a leading manufacturer and distributor of forklifts in North, Central and South America and employs more than 1,200 workers.

Homegrown Production

In 2016 – for the first time in decades – the number of manufacturing jobs created by U.S. companies moving jobs back to America, and by foreign companies investing in the nation, exceeded the number of jobs lost by companies moving overseas.

One of the ways we are contributing to this nationwide effort is by working with German-based Jungheinrich AG, an electric forklift and lift truck manufacturer, to build a 70,000 square-foot factory near our headquarters in Houston. Slated to open this fall, the facility will supply a variety of industrial components and parts. In addition to creating more American jobs, the factory will also allow us to shorten production lead-time and better provide products to our customers.

Consider what you can do to localize the components of your business. Where is there an opportunity to bring production back to the U.S.? If you currently only operate in the U.S., could you benefit by streamlining a part of your business and bringing it closer to your headquarters or your customers?

Filling the Skills Gap

Remarkably, 90% of apprentices secure jobs upon completion of their program, with the average apprentice earning $60,000 per year; however, fewer Americans are pursuing skilled trades. Of those who do pursue these types of jobs, many choose more well-known occupations rather than forklift technician jobs.

Despite healthy compensation and benefits, recruiting skilled workers is challenging due to several factors, the primary of which is a lack of industry awareness. To combat this, MCFA partners with local universities and vocational programs to offer training curriculum and early education to students.

Are you having trouble attracting talent to active, well-paying jobs in your sector? Consider developing a local education partnership in your community to educate potential employees on the requirements and benefits of your opportunities.

Safety is Everyone’s Job

In our industry, safety is paramount. As such, we have taken it upon ourselves to encourage MCFA employees and our dealers to adhere to the latest standards and regulations. We also work with the Industrial Truck Association to raise safety awareness to as many groups as possible.

Depending on your industry, safety may or may not be critically important to your business; however, consider what areas of your business are currently just “passing code” and if anything can be improved to increase the safety, efficiency and wellbeing of your employees.

This year marks MCFA’s 25th year in business and my 25th year with the company. Over the years, I’ve witnessed MCFA’s growth--- from approximately 300 employees in 1992 to more than 1,200 employees today. I’ve also witnessed a growth in local job opportunities in our manufacturing facility and the continued need for a strong skilled workforce.

While the new administration’s support of the American manufacturing resurgence is a welcome encouragement, it’s important to not lose focus on our own ability to make an impact. We believe all businesses in all industries have the opportunity to drive positive change by constantly improving and doing what’s best for employees.


Ken Barina

Ken Barina is the president of Mitsubishi Caterpillar Forklift America Inc.

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