ForeThought: The business you have | the business you want

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On June 24, President Obama called on Americans to invest in the manufacturing industry, calling it a necessary step for spurring job creation and economic growth. He noted that the economy cannot be fixed through spending cuts alone, and advocated investments in areas such as education, infrastructure, clean energy, and research and development in a bid to create middle-class jobs.

He also announced the launch of the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership, which aims to bring together the manufacturing industry, universities and the government. “It’s to renew the promise of American manufacturing,” said Obama, “to help make sure America remains in this century what we were in the last—a country that makes things.”

Making things—with a skilled, motivated staff and the equipment needed to produce products both effectively and efficiently—is the focus of the July issue of Specialty Fabrics Review. To capitalize on the trends in new products and new markets we’re hearing about from our readers, we decided to focus on the equipment needed to go after those markets, and devote three feature articles and several columns to the topic. “The right tools” offers a summary of previously published articles about how to run an efficient shop, while “Tools for setting up shop,” with manufacturers telling us what they need in terms of new equipment, and “The development of new and improved equipment,” with equipment suppliers describing the market trends that they see, the new equipment they’re bringing out to accommodate customer needs, and discussing their “perfect customer.”

Affordable capital investments” discusses a variety of financial and tax strategies to keep equipment investments affordable, and this month’s market report presents the results of our editorial Equipment Purchasing Survey. Our respondents told us that they are mostly optimistic about their sales in 2011, and are (albeit cautiously) starting to invest in equipment again to make sure they can accommodate growing customer demands.

Given the seemingly sluggish nature of this economic recovery, is it too soon to devote so much of this issue to the prospects for growth in our industry? I don’t think so. I’ve felt for years that Mikael Blomkvist, the journalist in Steig Larsson’s “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” had extremely keen insights when he said: “You have to distinguish between two things—the Swedish economy and the Swedish stock market. The Swedish economy is the sum of all the goods and services that are produced in this country every day. There are telephones from Ericsson, cars from Volvo, chickens from Scan and shipments from Kiruna to SkÖvde. That’s the Swedish economy, and it’s just as strong or weak today as it was a week ago.

“The stock exchange is something very different. There is no economy and no production of goods or services. There are only fantasies in which people from one hour to the next decide that this or that company is worth so many millions, more or less. It doesn’t have a thing to do with reality or with the Swedish economy.”

It’s time to get back to work.

—Galynn Nordstrom, senior editor, Specialty Fabrics Review

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