Most people in the business world have the impression that government and business are like oil and water - they just don't mix. Government is often accused of not understanding the manufacturing business and what manufacturers need to be profitable and thrive. Steve Braig, president and CEO of Trexel Inc., serves on the U.S. Manufacturing Council, which seeks solutions and provides recommendations to government entities to help manufacturing thrive.
PlasticsToday: Why do many in manufacturing see government as an obstacle rather than a partner?
Steve Braig: Some business owners feel that government should get out of the way of the business. Regulations introduced have increased the cost of doing business without creating value. When I got called in November 2012 and asked if I'd be interested in serving on the council, it was a real honor. It piqued my interest, and I accepted this appointment. I was positively surprised by how much the government - particularly the Department of Commerce - and businesses are aligned. To have a strong economy, businesses have to thrive and we'll all be better off as a whole.
PlasticsToday: What can the DoC do for manufacturing?
Steve Braig: The DoC has a lot of good programs and initiatives. You can make the argument that more regulations don't help with running a business. When it comes to exporting and dealing with foreign economies there need to be rules that businesses and individuals cannot influence - the ITA [International Trade Administration] and DoC at large. Business needs to have this playing field and the regulations. You need to get involved here because they have good intentions - they want to see U.S. manufacturers export and grow abroad, but they need to hear from business. They need to know what enables business to find viable markets abroad. Many of the programs that I was aware of provide excellent guidance and resources, such as those for creating new markets.
PlasticsToday: Can they help smaller companies like many in the plastics processing and moldmaking businesses?
Steve Braig: The Office of Advisory Committees and Industry Outreach at the DoC does a pretty good job of soliciting, and the Secretary appointing people from diverse companies, both small and large. There's IBM, Lockheed Martin, BMW-USA, and others of that size, but there are also $5 million to $10 million companies represented that have their CEOs on the council. There's a lot of discussion around the small-to-medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) but there's no common convention as to what a small business. Every agency has its own definition. So what we found is that very large companies - a company like Dow (who's on the council) for example, that has offices in D.C. for government affairs - and that are very focused on government, have a team of people who are intimately familiar with the various ...