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Center for Policy Studies
Public Affairs Discussion Group

The Obama Administration and the Future of U.S. Manufacturing

Susan Helper, Ph.D. - Frank Tracy Carlton Professor of Economics at Case Western Reserve University and the former Chief Economist, U.S. Department of Commerce
Friday April 22, 2016
12:30-1:30 p.m.
Dampeer Room
Kelvin Smith Library
Case Western Reserve University

Dear Colleagues:

The economic troubles of "rust belt" cities like Cleveland and Detroit are commonly blamed on the loss of good manufacturing jobs.

Government statistics say manufacturing has been a stable share of GDP since 1970. But the number of jobs shrank a bit to 2000 because labor productivity grew quickly due to technology and transfer of more labor-intensive jobs overseas. So manufacturing became a much smaller share of the workforce. Then, from 2000 – 2010, Asian competition and the Great Recession eliminated nearly 6 million jobs, a third of the total.

Some of these trends are due to broad macroeconomic forces. But at the same time, U.S. manufacturing has undergone less visible transformations, especially from huge integrated firms (think Chrysler in 1980) to the large firms dealing with many smaller suppliers (Chrysler today). Sue Helper is one of the economists who has led efforts to understand those transformations, and how to help U.S. manufacturers compete and create jobs in the current economy. She joined the Obama Administration as Chief Economist in the Department of Commerce to help shape policies to revive manufacturing, and joins us to tell us about those efforts.

I regret to add that our discussion with Professor Helper will be our last Friday Public Affairs Discussion of the Spring, 2016 semester.

We will reconvene for the Fall, 2016 series of discussions beginning on September 2 (wow, late start to the academic year!).

I would like to thank all speakers and participants for making this a fun responsibility for me. And I would like to especially thank the College of Arts and Sciences for its support of the Friday Lunch, and the generous participants who contribute to help defray costs of refreshments.

I imagine there will be some events nearby to discuss in July, but it may not be so easy to get here! So I wish everyone a peaceful and productive Summer, and look forward to seeing you next Academic Year.

All best regards,
Joe White
Luxenberg Family Professor of Public Policy and Director, Center for Policy Studies

About Our Guest

Susan Helper looks at how global supply chains affect regional development and innovation in the U.S., Mexico, and India. She is also examining a paradox in regional economic development. While the world is becoming more “flat” with goods and money flowing ever more quickly around the globe, local “clusters" of production in places such as Silicon Valley remain important. Helper’s research suggests that promoting networks within and between firms can lead to a highly productive economy, while maintaining community.

Where We Meet

The Friday Public Affairs Lunch convenes each Friday when classes are in session, from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. Our programs are open to all and no registration is required. We usually meet in the Dampeer Room of Kelvin Smith Library. The Dampeer Room is on the second floor of the library. If you get off the elevators, turn right, pass the first bank of tables, and turn right again. Occasionally we need to use a different room; that will always be announced in the weekly e-mails.

Parking Possibilities

The most convenient parking is the lot underneath Severance Hall. We regret that it is not free. From that lot there is an elevator up to street level (labeled as for the Thwing Center); it is less than 50 yards from that exit to the library entrance. You can get from the Severance garage to the library without going outside. Near the entry gates - just to the right if you were driving out - there is a door into a corridor. Walk down the corridor and there will be another door. Beyond that door you'll find the entrance to an elevator which goes up to an entrance right inside the doors to Kelvin Smith Library.