Smaller US manufacturers warm to Biden’s big industrial plan, survey shows

By Thomson Reuters Apr 16, 2024 | 7:02 AM

By Timothy Aeppel

(Reuters) – America’s small and mid-sized manufacturers may be warming up to the Biden administration’s push for an aggressive industrial policy.

In a survey of 150 producers, nearly 49% said they thought President Joe Biden “is more likely to bring about an American manufacturing renaissance,” while just over 31% gave that accolade to Republican candidate Donald Trump.

About 15% favor an unnamed third-party candidate to revitalize the sector, according to the survey conducted by polling company John Zogby Strategies on behalf of Xometry, a Maryland-based company that provides digital sourcing services for industrial producers.

Biden’s industrial policy, headlined by legislation passed in 2022 that sparked a surge of factory construction, is aimed at boosting semiconductors, electric vehicles and green technologies, as well as other sectors. The efforts so far have not produced many manufacturing jobs. And so, as the presidential campaign shifts into higher gear ahead of November’s election, Biden is touring factories to tout his accomplishments, especially to voters in battleground states.

“This is the first time in a long time that we’ve had a deliberate industrial strategy being pushed by the executive branch – that’s unique,” said Randy Altschuler, chief executive of Xometry.

Altschuler said federal investments have yet to filter down to smaller producers, with many of the most high-profile projects favoring giants like Intel and Samsung, which are both planning new semiconductor plants. “You’re going to see a bigger benefit (for smaller companies) further down the road,” said Altschuler, as those projects create demand for the underlying pipeline of goods and services needed to complete and supply those factories.

Altschuler, who ran for Congress in New York in 2010 and lost and remains a registered Republican, said the political divide over industrial policy – which was once opposed by many Republicans as picking winners and losers – has narrowed sharply in recent years. Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, for instance, recently penned an essay for the conservative policy journal National Affairs that argued the U.S. needs a strong industrial policy while faulting the Biden initiatives.

Still, manufacturers favor Republicans by one key measure. The National Association of Manufacturers Political Action Committee has so far directed nearly three-quarters of its contributions to Republican candidates in this election cycle, according to the nonprofit research group OpenSecrets.

(Reporting by Timothy Aeppel; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)