OAKBROOK TERRACE, ILL. | Washington has to change the way it does business and may need a change in its leaders to get that done, four metals industry executives said Tuesday at a manufacturing summit.
During an event hosted by the regional chapter of the Metals Service Center Institute, speakers said the amount of uncertainty that remains in the economy with Election Day 10 weeks away is choking business from creating jobs and investing in the country.
Reforming the tax code, reducing the amount of red tape businesses face when dealing with federal agency regulations and finding long-term solutions to address the nation's debt and deficit issues were among the fixes panelists recommended for the country to prosper.
C. Davis Nelsen II, president and CEO of Nelsen Steel and Wire of Franklin Park, Ill., told about 200 attendees at the Drury Lane Conference Center that a “leadership vacuum” exists in the United States. He said many current political leaders are worried more about pleasing their constituencies than leading the country with their hearts.
Bill Hickey, president of Chicago-based steel service company Lapham-Hickey Steel Corp., said the nation also has to address issues such as its large merchandise trade deficit with countries such as China and reduce the nation's dependence on oil imports in favor of domestic natural gas supplies for energy.
“We have to fix the imbalances in the U.S. economy,” Hickey said.
In response to Hickey's concern, Bert Miller, president of Naperville, Ill.-based Phoenix Closures, suggested the nation's leaders support a seven-year plan to increase the amount of trucks that run on natural gas. With that effort, transportation costs would be lower and the carbon footprint would be reduced as a result of using a cleaner-burning fuel. Miller runs a manufacturing firm that specializes in injection molded closures.
At the federal level, Nelsen said the amount of bureaucracy companies have to deal with is crippling growth. He said employees at his business have spent more than 100 hours working to respond to government data collection efforts, which doesn't include those required to spend on tax compliance and with federal environmental and workplace safety agencies.
“It adds zero value to my business and my industry,” Nelsen said.
Political candidates, including incumbent U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh, R-Ill., also had the opportunity to speak to the audience. Miller encouraged attendees to invite political leaders to their plants regardless of their political affiliation and help them understand the issues businesses and industry face.
The Metals Service Center Institute is a Rolling Meadows, Ill.-based trade organization that supports the interests of metals producers, distributors and processors. Most of its members are metals service centers.
Service centers are businesses that inventory and distribute metals such as steel and aluminum for industrial customers and perform first-stage processing.