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As the economy becomes more global, how will the U.S. keep up with other nations? 

According to a Harvard Business School study, manufacturing will play a big role if the U.S. is going to stay competitive.

The study found that the manufacturing sector is the “most likely to act to improve the nation’s competitive economic standing.” This is why it’s key for American manufacturing to be cutting edge.

“The competitiveness of the United States is indeed at a crossroads,” stated the report. “In early 2013, the American economy stands at the intersection of hope and doubt.”

The study reflects the perspectives of nearly 7,000 HBS alumni from every state and 115 countries as well as the views of more than 1,000 members of the U.S. general public. The full report can be found here.

The authors of the study also distilled policy proposals based on the feedback of those who responded, which reached included a variety of business backgrounds and political beliefs. One consensus included the need to create tax incentives and subsidies for clean energy manufacturers in the U.S. to invest and develop new technologies.

And in the meantime, manufacturers aren’t sitting idle. They are the most likely to take action to shore up the economy in the future, according to the report:

Respondents from manufacturing firms reported the largest number of actions that boost U.S. competitiveness: 86% engaged in internal training; 59% in regional initiatives; 40% offered apprenticeships; 47% reported community college or other external training partnerships; 54% sourced locally; and 45% engaged in supplier mentoring—the highest proportion for each action. Manufacturing was also near the top in participation in research collaboratives (63%) and showed the highest interest in reshoring (29%).

So what does this all mean? We’ll let the report speak for itself.

“These findings point to a reason to emphasize manufacturing in efforts to improve U.S. competitiveness that is not widely understood: manufacturers tend to take actions that benefit the wider commons.” 

In other words, we all need manufacturing.