Over the years, I've attended more International Manufacturing Technology Shows (IMTS) than I care to admit. As an editor, the first IMTS I visited was in 1996. But as an engineer and manufacturer, I was attending these shows as far back as the sixties. And while I admit time can blur memories, I can't recall a more in-depth, technologically advanced show than IMTS 2004. From seeing the latest machine tools in operation to walking through the Emerging Technology Center to catch a glimpse at experimental equipment and processes still in the development stage, this show had it all.
I believe attendees came to IMTS to get a greater understanding of the latest state-of-the-art technologies, but more importantly, to invest capital dollars to raise productivity and increase efficiencies. Based on the excitement I witnessed on the show floor, it's apparent that U.S. manufacturers aren't ready to roll over and play dead in the face of global competition. What I witnessed at IMTS was serious manufacturers, asking serious questions. Focused on evaluating global outsourcing against homeland plant-modernization projects, attendees at IMTS 2004 grasped the possibilities of improving operations and raising quality to new levels. This, in turn, renewed confidence that U.S. manufacturers can compete on a global basis.
The reality of IMTS 2004 is that U.S. manufacturing is on the rebound. In fact, total machine tool purchases in the U.S. for the first six months of this year increased 32%, to $1.3 billion, which is the first rise in five years. And as John B. Byrd III, president of AMT — The Association For Manufacturing Technology, suggests, "This increase in machine tool orders coupled with the addition of 91,000 manufacturing jobs in the first six months of this year, shows that U.S. manufacturing is coming back to life."
To help keep this momentum going throughout the remainder of this year and create economic growth throughout 2005 and into 2006, American manufacturers should take advantage of a special accelerated-depreciation measure that will expire at the end of the year. The provision was part of President Bush's job and economic-growth tax-relief measures passed in 2002 and 2003. Under the provision, qualified companies can write off as much as 57% of the cost on new equipment in the first year, with even greater savings for small businesses.
I suggest those who think that U.S. manufacturing is dead and the only way to remain competitive in a global market is to outsource to countries like China and India seriously reconsider their position. Manufacturers with a smart business plan and the right mix of skilled workers and advanced technology can compete anywhere in the world.