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The Case for Making Small U.S. Manufacturers a Priority

Whistles being manufactured at the American Whistle Corporation Thursday, Columbus, Ohio
Whistles being manufactured at the American Whistle Corporation Thursday, Columbus, OhioPhotograph by Jay LaPrete/Bloomberg

When people think of manufacturing, they typically envision large publicly listed companies that make cars, aircraft, home appliances, electronics, medical devices, and so forth. They rarely think about the thousands of small manufacturers around the country—many of them “mom and pop” operations—that make products ranging from guitar amplifiers to flight display systems.

Some 250,000 manufacturers in the U.S. have fewer than 500 employees. Studies show these smaller businesses produce more innovations per employee than large manufacturers. And truth be told, it is generally from these small companies that the jobs of the future will spring. Indeed, as David Rocks and Nick Leiber observed last summer, smaller manufacturers have been leading the “reshoring” wave that my colleagues and I have been writing about.