When policymakers and the public think of manufacturing, most imagine sprawling production facilities. Although there are certainly big players in the sector, research shows that small and medium-sized businesses are the heart of the industry--just like they are the foundation of the American Dream.
That's why I'm excited to be part of the National Association of Manufacturers' "Power of Small" campaign. The new initiative aims to tell the story of small and medium-sized manufacturers and their oversized contributions to this country's success.
In launching the program and communicating with manufacturers and policymakers, the NAM has compiled some interesting facts that clearly demonstrate that large impact often comes in small packages. Did you know:
1. Small and medium-sized businesses comprise the preponderance of the manufacturing sector. Of the 256,363 firms identified in the most recent data, only 3,626 were large companies. The remaining 98.5%--a total of 252,737 companies--were businesses employing fewer than 500 people. This includes companies like mine, Marlin Steel, with its 31 dedicated workers.
2. The very small make up the largest proportion of manufacturing. If hundreds of employees still sounds big, know that most manufacturers fall far short of that mark. In fact, three-quarters of manufacturing companies have fewer than 20 employees. These entrepreneurial ventures help turbo-charge the economy and strengthen local communities.
3. Smaller manufacturers employ almost as many people as their larger counterparts. Small and medium-sized manufacturers are responsible for 5 million American jobs, with firms of less than 20 employees supporting 1 million of them. Large manufacturers, by comparison, have about 6 million workers.
4. The revenues of small manufacturers stack up well against some big competition. Total receipts at the small end of the manufacturing spectrum totaled $213.5 billion according to the most recent data. Larger manufacturers booked $367.1 billion.
5. America's success in global commerce starts with the small. Small and medium-sized businesses dominate exports, accounting for 98% of the 303,000 U.S. companies selling goods overseas. These "little guys" were responsible for one-third of known export value, making them key contributors to a beneficial trade balance. Marlin Steel, to take one example, exports to 39 countries.
These statistics have serious implications this election year. As the nation evaluates candidates for office, we must identify and support those who will do the most to strengthen this country's economic backbone--our small business sector. To this end, the NAM is working hard to encourage manufacturers of all sizes to raise their voices together and advocate a policy agenda that works for manufacturing, for small businesses and for America.
What is clear is that no matter which party prevails in November, our new leaders must understand that trade supports small business jobs, and they must be willing to advance fair agreements that will open markets to smaller export firms. They must also recognize that small businesses are drowning under compliance requirements and commit to lessening that burden. And they must take our side on tort reform and intellectual property protections to ensure that a frivolous lawsuit or a theft of trade secrets cannot wipe out a vibrant small company.
As the five facts above demonstrate, small manufacturers are lifting above their weight in our economy and our communities, even while battling significant head winds. Imagine what would be possible if we unleash the full Power of Small.