If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.
That’s one of the reasons why, in his State of the Union address, President Biden’s praise for an emerging manufacturing renaissance was so welcome. He said, “If we invent it here, we should also make it in America.”
He sounded a lot like a microelectronics CEO.
Two decades ago, the United States had more than 2,000 companies designing and manufacturing printed circuit boards to satisfy 30% of the global demand. Today that number is less than 150 companies, representing only 4% of PCB production.
A refreshed bill from Reps. Blake Moore (R-UT-1) and Anna Eshoo (D-CA-16) aims to address this atrophy with direct government funding and tax credits that will make American printed circuit boards cost competitive with foreign sources.
Next month, the PCBAA will gather in Washington to meet with lawmakers and lobby directly for this important legislation. This conference is the culmination of a multifaceted campaign we have been leading for more than two years.
There is no substitute to for in-person advocacy, and here’s why we’re taking our fight to the halls of Congress:
- The environment is ripe for reshoring. Challenges to supply chains that began during the COVID-19 pandemic have lingered and, coupled with a tight labor market, created a challenging environment for high-tech manufacturing. Businesses are securing their sourcing and building new arrangements closer to home. New factories are under construction from Arizona to New York, and businesses are recognizing that dependence on any one region is not sustainable. Governments all over the world are competing for a share of this rebalanced portfolio.
- The competition for lawmakers’ attention is fierce. Every day in Washington our elected officials are inundated with requests for support and appeals to action. Our system empowers individuals and organizations alike to engage in the political process, and from corn growers to clothing importers, tens of thousands avail themselves of this option during every legislative session. With so many diverse interests competing, it’s important to connect the faces of your stakeholders to the arguments you’re making.
Some might argue that in our new “virtual” work environment, the need to show up is out of fashion, but I strongly disagree. Sitting across the table, shaking hands, telling the story; there is no replacing that kind of connection and the results it can bring.
If anyone still doubts the value of direct engagement with lawmakers, you need only look to the CHIPS Act. Far from a safe bet when it was first proposed, the CHIPS (Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors) Act took nearly three years to go from an idea to signature by the President. During those three years our colleagues in the semiconductor industry worked tirelessly in Washington to make it happen.
That understanding led to nearly $52 billion in government investment and more than $400 billion in private funds that followed the government’s strong signal.
Now it is time to finish the job.
It took almost three decades to shrink our PCB manufacturing base. We’re not going to reverse that trend overnight, but we must act. Now is the time to sit with our elected officials and explain that “chips don’t float.” A truly secure, robust, and resilient supply chain includes semiconductors, substrates, and printed circuit boards manufactured in America.
We owe it to our shareholders, employees, and customers to make this vision a reality. That’s why I am going to Washington, D.C., next month. If you care about American manufacturing, I hope you will join us.
This column originally appeared in the May 2023 issue of PCB007 Magazine.