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Public Statements

This Week in Washington - 5/13/2011


Location: Washington, DC

Scarcely a family in our district is more than a generation or two removed from having had family members who worked in a textile mill or on a farm. The connection between manufacturing and agriculture, and the related businesses that spring up around them, made up the economic backbone of many of our communities for better than a century. And as such, there is not a community in our district that has not suffered mightily due to the demise of American apparel manufacturing and the farms that provide raw materials to that once thriving industry.

As an old mill hand, I have seen firsthand the economic hardship brought to bear on families and communities by the decline of textile manufacturing. I have invested much of my first three years in office fighting to make people in Washington and elsewhere understand that if our economy is to regain its footing, we must begin to put people back to work, and government must not place undue impediments to those seeking to create manufacturing jobs in our country. Our government must nurture, facilitate, encourage and, yes, protect, the expansion of our nation's manufacturing base and fight to create markets for our products abroad.

As I have reported to you before, the efforts being made on behalf of Buy American are beginning to yield results. Just this past week, CNN reported on Cotton of the Carolinas and the Dirt-to-Shirt movement that is taking hold here. The concept is simple, the economics make sense, and the end result is jobs for North Carolinians in the traditional sectors of agriculture and textiles that once fueled the economies and quality of life in so many communities across our great state. There is pride that comes from growing or making a quality product and earning one's living from it. This is a value that is rooted in the American ideal. It is a value that we would do well to have more of in these challenging times.

A new generation of entrepreneurs and consumers realize that growing cotton near the mills where it is processed and finished is cost effective, environmentally sound and has a ripple effect on local economies that can't be equaled by the import-for-retail system that now dominates the market. Every bale of cotton that stays in this country and is processed and sewn here creates jobs and grows our economy. Likewise, every bale that does not get shipped around the world twice before it comes back here as a shirt made in China strengthens our position relative to our trading partners and reduces the amount of oil and gas consumed by the process. With the cost of energy being what it is, why should we spend money on fuel to ship cotton overseas only to have it shipped back in the form of a finished garment if we can create markets for that cotton here at home? Obviously, we should not. I fully support and encourage the exportation of American cotton to the rest of the world to meet global demand, but we should also work to create a sufficient domestic market for cotton so that much of what we need and grow here, can stay here for processing and finishing.

In more good news, Reuters reported last week that indications are strong for a resurgence in investment in American manufacturing. Products ranging from Caterpillar's heavy equipment to Wham-O's Hula Hoops are coming home, and they're bringing jobs with them. It is my belief that investors and consumers alike are realizing that "Made in America" remains the strongest brand on the planet. The time is now for our nation to support this rising tide and generate policies that encourage investment in American businesses and the creation of American jobs. I will continue my efforts to tell people in Washington what you and I have known our entire lives - given a fair chance, the American workforce can compete with anyone in any market, anywhere in the world.

Aside from the obvious wisdom of expanding the American manufacturing base and saving on the consumption of fossil fuels, the Dirt-to-Shirt movement and the expansion or relocation of other businesses from around the world to America is evidence of our nation's one true, historic, competitive advantage: the ingenuity and adaptability of our workforce and the American entrepreneurial spirit. Despite better than two decades of domestic government policies and unfair international trade practices designed specifically to destroy or give away our nation's textile industry, those who believe in the product and in the concepts of American independence and prosperity continue to find ways to bounce back. The same can be said for those companies leading the return to America of manufacturing processes that have been overseas. I am pleased to see things trending to a better day for American manufacturing, and I vow to fight to see that our government doesn't do anything to hamper these efforts.

The best way to grow our economy and ensure our role as a global super power is to put our people back to work making things. The continued expansion and revitalizing of our nation's manufacturing sector is a key to our continued strength, freedom and security. And while the uphill fight continues to make politicians and policy makers understand that simple fact, the good news to report is that the American people have never forgotten it.

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