With supply chain issues and workforce shortages plaguing industries around the country, U.S. Rep. Susan Wild and U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo met with Lehigh Valley manufacturers during a roundtable Wednesday to discuss revitalizing America’s manufacturing sector and improving the country’s competitiveness.
Stressing the need to bolster the country’s workforce to compete with Chinese manufacturers, Raimondo discussed the importance of semiconductors and why domestic production of them must increase. Semiconductors, devices used to control the flow of electric current in devices, have been in short supply for the past couple of years going back to the start of the pandemic. The chips are considered the basic building blocks of all things electronic.
“There’s not a business in America, literally not a single business, that can run without access to semiconductors,” she said. “We want to make sure our businesses large and small can compete in the world and succeed in the global economy. A key piece of doing that is enhancing America’s manufacturing base.”
Raimondo and Wild, a Democrat from the Lehigh Valley, touted the Bipartisan Innovation and Competition Act, the House version of a bill that passed through the Senate last month. The House legislation, which would deliver $52 billion in subsidies to the semiconductor industry, is more costly than the Senate proposal.
The bill has support from the National Association of Manufacturers, Alliance for Automotive Innovation, Semiconductor Industry Association, and the AFL-CIO. It would also establish a supply chain office at the Commerce Department.
Roundtabke participant Michael Lovati, a representative of Mack Trucks and Volvo Trucks in Allentown, said his industry has felt the disruptions from the semiconductor shortage over the last few years.
“Semiconductors are extremely important to what we do and vital to manufacturing our heavy-duty trucks and many (other) components,” Lovati said. He noted that the Bipartisan Innovation and Competition Act would provide $2 billion specifically for legacy chips, which are critical to the types of products they make.
Although the bill has allies on both sides of the aisle, the Senate and House have yet to come to an agreement on a final bill, despite Republicans and Democrats expressing similar concerns about the nation’s reliance on Chinese manufacturing.
“Congressman Keller opposed H.R. 4521, The America COMPETES Act, earlier this year because the bill fails to meaningfully prioritize America’s manufacturing might over China’s growing influence in U.S. markets,” Nick Barley, spokesperson for U.S. Rep. Fred Keller, a Republican from Snyder County, said in a statement. “While Congressman Keller has major concerns with this bill, he did support a measure to allow the House and Senate to resolve differences in conference in order to improve the final version and ensure that the measure puts America’s manufacturers and workforce first.”
Raimondo and Democrats continue to advocate for the legislation in areas of the commonwealth where manufacturing is a crucial part of the economy. Last month, she met with U.S. Rep. Chrissy Houlahan, a Democrat from Chester County, at Vishay Intertechnology, a semiconductor manufacturing facility in Malvern.
Democrats have been optimistic about passing the bill by the end of July. Wednesday’s roundtable discussion was yet another attempt by the Biden administration and Democrats to showcase its potential.
“We have an opportunity here to make massive and much-needed investments in the current and future success of American businesses and American manufacturing, as well as to bolster our economic and national security with the passage of the America COMPETES Act,” Wild said. “The Greater Lehigh Valley has a proud manufacturing legacy and the know-how to contribute to the production supply chain and critical domestic capacity issues that we face as a nation.”