CRANSTON, R.I. – The focus was all about the current state of, and future outlook for, American manufacturing at the second annual John White Jr. Forum on Public Policy event held last week at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. In addition to John Hazen White Jr. of Taco, Rhode Island Congressman David Cicilline participated.

Hosted by Brookings’ Governance Studies, and held in the Institute’s Falk Auditorium, the forum’s focus on manufacturing is proving to be a timely and popular discussion offering, as the room for this year’s session was filled to capacity with journalists, think tank and association professionals, academics, business representatives and students.  

The forum, entitled “Innovating American Manufacturing: New Policies for a Stronger Economic Future,” was comprised of three panel discussion sessions, each an hour long, that dealt with a range of subjects: today’s advanced manufacturing, the role of manufacturing in the U.S. economy, needed job skills for today’s manufacturing, and the importance of workplace education. A lively question and answer period completed each session.

Panelists included representatives from Pfizer and Alcoa, the Congressional Research Service, IDA Science & Technology Policy Institute and the Brookings Institute. Moderators included Darrell West, Vice President and Director, Brookings’ Governance Studies, Economic Policy Correspondent Jim Tankersley of The Washington Post and Staff Reporter Sophie Quinton of National Journal.

John White and Congressman Cicilline were together with the Brooking Institute’s Governance Studies Fellow Elisabeth Jacobs for a discussion on Workplace Education to conclude the Forum, a subject that Taco’s White champions. Taco’s new Innovation and Development Center, opened in June of 2012, represents a significant and long-term commitment to employee and industry training and education. Taco opened its original Leaning center in 1991.

Speaking of the importance of his employees to Taco, White said “People are the greatest asset a company like mine has. It’s not machinery or equipment, it’s people.” Even the most advanced state-of-the-art machinery, he went on to say, is virtually obsolete soon after it’s installed because there’s something even newer available, but people are an “asset that’s never obsolete.”  

Congressman Cicilline spoke of efforts in the Congress to advance American manufacturing through the Made in America Act and to support increased funding for training and workplace education. He pulled no punches in emphasizing how hard it currently is to get bipartisan support for even the smallest or least political of measures in today’s hyper-partisan House of Representatives.

Taco Inc., headquartered in Cranston, R.I., is a manufacturer of heating and cooling equipment, systems and accessories for use in hydronic-based applications.