Randy Forbes: Innovation hubs

randy forbesAll across Virginia’s fourth district sit small hubs of creativity and innovation. They are peppered throughout the district, from Richmond, to Hopewell, to Chesapeake, to Suffolk. The average person probably knows little about the nuances that go on inside their doors. From the outside, the buildings look quiet, a few shrubs surrounding the company signs and the walkways leading up to the entrances.

But inside, it’s different. Inside, the buildings bustle with product development, sophisticated machinery, and dedicated workers.

They are the plants and factories that make up the Fourth Congressional District’s manufacturing industry. The facilities produce a variety of materials ranging from the paperboard used in our cereal boxes and the absorbent materials found in diapers, to the advanced polymers used by the auto industry and the innovative nylon fibers used in the gear that protects the lives of our service members. From tea, to hummus, to peanuts, to coffee, Virginia’s fourth district is home to some of the nation’s most well-known food and beverage producers.  It is a hub for globally recognized aerospace and marine propulsion manufactures, as well as wood pallets, crates, paper, and glass.

This week, I had the privilege of visiting many of these manufacturing companies, to walk through the plants and talk with the individuals involved in the production process every day. And this is one of the key observations I took away: what a refreshing contrast to the clunky, wasteful, and bureaucratic processes we see in Washington. Our manufacturing plants represent what American production should be about – creating new, innovative products, building useful resources, and taking waste and redirecting to areas where it too can be used in an efficient way. As a government, we should be doing our very best to protect this industry. Instead, the federal government is doing the opposite.

Over the past couple of decades, manufacturing companies have been increasingly hamstrung by unfair and unwarranted federal regulations that force plants to make decisions between product creation and compliance. The dollars that our manufacturing plants must spend to adhere with environmental and tax-compliance regulations (among others), are dollars they cannot allocate towards product innovation and job creation. Yet all across the country, manufacturing plants, such as those in the Fourth District, are doing amazing work despite the heavy burdens placed on them by the federal government.

Imagine the potential our manufacturing industry could reach if the cloak of government bureaucracy was lifted from its shoulders. The opportunity for achievement is there ­­– from global competitiveness, to national innovation, to American jobs. The federal government needs to be the entity helping to propel the industry forward, not holding it back.

We cannot afford to choke such an important vessel in the American economy. Now is the time to roll back burdensome and costly regulations, and recognize the value and role the manufacturing industry plays in American economy, security, and global leadership.

Instead of forcing manufacturing companies to succumb to the unproductive pages of the bureaucratic playbook, our government should be taking a cue from the manufacturing industry. We’d be certain to be more agile, innovative, and efficient.

Randy Forbes represents the Fourth District in Congress.

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