WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Rep. Charlie Dent (PA-15) delivered the following speech on June 3 during a kickoff event for The Da Vinci Science Center’s Summer of Manufacturing program:

“Today, many Americans believe domestic manufacturing is on a steady decline. While a much smaller percentage of today’s population works in the manufacturing sector than in the past, the truth is American manufacturing is alive and well. Fueled by remarkable efficiency and incredible productivity, the United States remains the world’s undisputed champion of manufacturing. While much has been made of the recent emergence of China as a global manufacturing power, our nation’s $2.155 trillion worth of manufacturing output a year is 45% higher than China’s, and the United States produced more than 20% of global manufacturing output in 2009. If U.S. manufacturing were a national economy, it would be the sixth largest in the world. It’s perfectly reasonable to be surprised by these figures and more than appropriate to be proud of our success. Yet, it is also true that there are 7 million fewer people working in American manufacturing than during the 1970’s.

“As it has for generations, our manufacturing dominance is rooted in our ability to adapt, diversify and innovate. Perhaps the greatest example of this lies in our nation’s vibrant agricultural sector. A century ago, 40% of the domestic labor force worked in agricultural production. Driven by decades of technological advancements and production refinements, today’s farmers are cultivating more than ever with a mere 2.6% of the American work force. These results are shared by nearly every segment of manufacturing, including pharmaceutical, energy, equipment and technology production.

“The evolution of manufacturing in the United States is mirrored by the history of manufacturing in the Lehigh Valley. Following the demise of Bethlehem Steel, many people, including local residents, hastily began memorializing the manufacturing sector in our area – treating it as a lost segment of our regional economy. The fact of the matter is manufacturing in the Lehigh Valley is quietly flourishing and has become more dynamic today than it was 30 years ago. While there is no denying the difficulty and displacement of those Americans transitioning from manufacturing to other fields, the U.S. factory worker today is much more productive than his or her 1970’s counterpart.  

“Lehigh Valley manufacturers also play a crucial role in the economic growth of Pennsylvania. As the engine of our state’s economy, manufacturing accounts for $75 billion of output each year and provides more than 575,000 Pennsylvanians with high-quality jobs. While other regions of the Commonwealth struggle to maintain their manufacturing, Lehigh Valley businesses have excelled by modernizing their production and adapting their products. For our area to remain a dominant force in manufacturing on the state and national level, we must continue to develop a bright and energetic local workforce, well-grounded in science, technology, engineering and math.

“I am very pleased the Da Vinci Science Center and its partners are focusing this summer on encouraging local young people to explore manufacturing. By participating in unique summer programs offered through the Da Vinci Science Center, young people may discover a new interest in manufacturing that over time develops into an exciting career.”