CEO Attends U.S.-Mexico Summit to Emphasize Importance of Manufacturing on the Border

CEO Attends U.S.-Mexico Summit to Emphasize Importance of Manufacturing on the Border

The 2015 U.S.-Mexico Summit held last week at the University of Texas at El Paso offered a unique opportunity for productive high-level economic dialogues, as well as a venue for discussing manufacturing innovation.

PMT CEO Charles Sholtis was invited to participate in a business roundtable discussion with U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, México Secretary of Economy Ildefonso Guajardo and Congressman Beto O’Rourke (TX-16), along with other local business leaders, and presented the challenges faced by the manufacturing industry locally and nationally.

Sholtis said he relayed the importance of leveraging the U.S. and Mexico’s natural energy resources to grow exports even further. NAFTA began the strong partnership built between the two countries, and it’s important to continue to grow manufacturing on both sides of the border.

During part of the conversation, the group discussed the roadblocks companies find when expanding into global markets, and the importance of the successful negotiation of a high-standard and enforceable TPP agreement. A TPP that meets objectives set by Congress, and that eliminates the barriers and distortions currently faced, would provide a much-needed boost to manufacturers like PMT who serve a diverse and global customer base.

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Runners line up at the starting point of the U.S.-Mexico 10K on Saturday, August 8, the punctuating event of the successful 2015 U.S.-Mexico Summit.

A recent survey from the Manufacturing Leadership Council revealed 78 percent of manufacturers said they believe the federal government is ineffective in supporting and enabling their success. This is a broad concern across the American manufacturing industry, and Sholtis said he discussed the need for increased government support of targeted university research to help the industry, as well as the establishment of a cabinet-level federal agency devoted to the support and development of manufacturing.

Sholtis said he had an engaging discussion with Secretary Pritzker on the skills gap in the manufacturing sector. He said he explained the need to expand the apprenticeship program infrastructure across all regions of the U.S., with national best-practices guidelines that could cross over multiple industries and trades.

Secretary Pritzker, a strong advocate for education and a leading voice on the effort to strengthen American manufacturing, also oversees the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP), part of the Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). PMT has a close partnership with our local MEP, the Texas Manufacturing Assistance Center (TMAC). Sholtis serves on the board of TMAC, and the company has taken advantage of TMAC’s training resources.

While the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI) has set up several manufacturing innovation hubs across the U.S., the El Paso/Juarez border region has so far been left unnoticed. Sholtis advocated for a hub in our region—a thriving bi-national community that is a magnet for investment, and that holds great potential in the resurgence of manufacturing. Another concern of U.S. manufacturers is the need for training in robotics and factory automation for today’s workers, subjects that have yet to be incorporated into many regional training programs.

A final highlight of the summit was the Run Internacional 10K last Saturday, where 929 runners raced through both the U.S. and Mexico for the first time in 15 years. This punctuated a successful and productive summit, and visually displayed the desire for a continued partnership between our two countries as runners travelled across the borders. PMT is proud to be part of the El Paso/Juarez borderplex, and we thank Rep. O’Rourke and UTEP for hosting this opportunity for renewed economic discussion.