U.S. Vice President Pence’s Remarks at National Association of Manufacturers Winter 2020 Board of Directors Meeting

The Conrad Hotel

Washington, D.C.

11:02 A.M. EST

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you all for the warm welcome. It is a great privilege to be with all of you today.

To Michael Lamach, to Jim Fitterling, to all the members of the Board of Directors who are gathered here: I know you’ve had a busy week and, I know, a productive time together, but to stand before you today at the close of this conference and to have the opportunity to address some of the most significant business leaders in America is a great, great privilege for me. So, thank you. Thank you so much for your warm welcome.

I also want to say thank you to Jay Timmons and this terrific staff at the National Association of Manufacturers. They make an incredible difference in the life of this nation, and you can give them a round of applause if they haven’t gotten more than a few. (Applause.)

It’s also great — great to be here as you celebrate 125 years of the National Association of Manufacturers. I know I stand before you today and I’m looking into the eyes of some of the most extraordinary men and women in this country; that you are leaders who literally employ millions of Americans and create jobs and opportunities and make dreams come true every single day.

And it’s really great to be here among so many champions of free enterprise. Thanks to all of your efforts, to the investments your companies have made, and thanks to the leadership of a friend of mine, we’re in the midst of a great American comeback, and manufacturing is leading the way! (Applause.)

And it’s always been true in this country. You know, I think in the long and storied history of America, we’ve done two things especially well: We make things and we grow things. And all of you in this association and the companies large and small that are represented here, for 120 years — 125 years, excuse me — have improved the lives of the American people. You’ve strengthened communities.

But as I begin this morning, let me also say I’m very aware — from my years in the Congress growing up in a manufacturing state of Indiana, my years as governor — I know I’m standing in front of some of the most generous and conscientious corporate citizens in America. Your companies get behind literally every worthy cause in every big city and small town in America. So why don’t you give yourselves a round of applause for what you and your employees do to improve the lives of the American people every day. (Applause.) We’re truly grateful.

It really is great to be with so many friends in the room. And as I begin, let me bring greetings from another friend of mine and a great champion of manufacturing, someone who spent a lifetime building, and now he is rebuilding the American Dream for countless Americans. I bring greetings from the 45th President of the United States of America, President Donald Trump. (Applause.)

You know, from the day he took that historic ride down the escalator, President Trump promised the American people that he would be, in his words, “a leader that [would] bring back our jobs and bring back…manufacturing.” And President Donald Trump delivered and has been fighting to keep that promise every single day. (Applause.)

And thanks to the President’s leadership and the reforms that we’ll reflect on today — were achieved with his leadership and with your support — it’s remarkable to think that, since Election Day 2016, businesses just like all of yours have literally created more than 7 million new jobs across this country, including more than 500,000 manufacturing jobs.

Unemployment is at a 50-year low, the stock market has broken even more records this week, and more Americans are working today than ever before. It really is an incredible accomplishment.

And the rise in the stock market is — you know, I watch the business television shows, probably not as much as you do, but I watch these business television shows and they’re always talking about the “curves this” and “the econometrics that,” and all the fancy talk. But, you know, the bottom line is, when the 401(k)s are growing, when the stock market is rising, pensions are growing.

And the truth is, the policies that the National Association of Manufacturers and all of you got behind have made a difference strengthening the foundation under working families and retirees across America. And on behalf of all of them, thank you for your support. You’ve improved the wellbeing and the future of millions of American families. (Applause.)

And I also want to express appreciation that, in the midst of the reforms that we’ll talk about today that you’ve been reflecting on all this week, after years of flat wages and, really — it was a stubborn metric when I was governor of the state of Indiana, in a heavy manufacturing state. We just could never get wages to rise outside of a very minimal level.

Manufacturing has never been given to the rapid income increases that you see in some other sectors of the economy. But I’m proud to report today that wages are rising at the fastest pace in more than a decade. Companies, like all of you around this room, are investing in your workers as you have not done for more than 10 years. And what’s most exciting, as I travel all across country, and in South Carolina yesterday, is that wages are rising most rapidly for hardworking, blue-collar Americans. American business is investing in working Americans again. Thank you for that. (Applause.)

I mean, the truth of the matter is, the President said that we were going to focus our administration on the forgotten men and women of America. And all of you, by investing those resources in hardworking Americans, have done just that. The forgotten men and women are forgotten no more. And I’m here to tell you: They know it.

And for the first time in 18 years, it’s amazing to think there are actually more job openings in America than there are people looking for work. And it’s been that way for nearly two years.

In January alone, we saw companies like all those gathered here create some 225,000 new jobs. And as I stand before you today, there’s not only 500,000 new manufacturing jobs under President Trump’s leadership, but I’m told that there’s another 360,000 manufacturing jobs waiting to be filled. This economy is working for manufacturing and it’s working for working Americans. (Applause.)

In fact — in fact, under the President’s leadership, we’ve seen the best year for manufacturing job creation, Jay, in more than 20 years. It’s really been a remarkable time. The most manufacturing job openings recorded in 18 years. The highest levels of optimism among manufacturers ever recorded.

And thanks to the strong support of NAM and the leadership of this President, American manufacturing has come roaring back. It’s remarkable to think about the difference over the last three years.

I mean, the last President actually saw this country lose 200,000 manufacturing jobs. And I remember, out on the campaign trail, the last administration actually asked the question, “What magic wand do you have?” I mean, the assumption was manufacturing was never going to come back. I remember hearing that very same thing when I was leading the state of Indiana as governor.

But you thought different. President Donald Trump thought different. We didn’t need a magic wand; we just needed a leader in the White House who believed in manufacturing. We just needed President Donald Trump in the Oval Office. It’s made the difference. (Applause.)

And it didn’t just happen. You all know, in our first year in office, the President went right to work to pass the policies that we had campaigned on that he knew, as a lifelong entrepreneur and business leader, would make it possible for companies like all of those gathered here to invest in ways to create jobs and bring manufacturing and all of American business back.

The President signed the largest tax cuts and tax reform in American history in our first year. We cut taxes across the board for working families but also for businesses large and small.

And I was in those negotiations. I remember the President being insistent that we had to cut the corporate tax rate. We had one of the highest tax rates in the developed world, and we cut it to below the average. We eliminated the death tax for nearly every American small business. We gave businesses the ability to deduct 100 percent of the cost of equipment.

And because of the President’s tax cuts, and because of the confidence that you all have shown, I’m told we’ve already seen a trillion dollars of investment brought back into this country from overseas. And members of the NAM have seen the impact on manufacturing firsthand. It’s really been remarkable.

I’m mean, all of you got behind these policies of tax cuts and all the reforms that we’ve advanced, and then you put them into practice. You didn’t wait.

I remember when we were talking about immediate expensing. The President said, “We’ve got to do things that will encourage companies to move, and to move quickly, to get the American economy rolling again. And all of you did.

I mean, last month, I met a business owner from Illinois at the White House, and she’s been using her tax cut to invest a half a million dollars in new equipment, and hired 20 percent more workers, raised wages by 25 percent. She increased health insurance contributions and provided 401(k) match. And I think she’s actually with us here today. HM Manufacturing, Nicole Walter, where are you? Let’s give her a big round of applause. (Applause.) Take a bow, Nicole. Wow. Great job.

And there’s another company with us today who I’m told is using those tax cuts to create 170 new jobs at three new facilities in Ohio and back in the Hoosier State, and providing training for students at local schools and helping to train up that whole new generation of hardworking and prosperous Americans. So would you join me in recognizing BWX Technology and Rex Geveden? Rex, where are you? Take a bow, will you? (Applause.) Great job, Rex. Fantastic.

I mean, really — it really is amazing. I mean, when — I remember when we signed, we were out on the South Lawn, and the President put his signature on that tax cut. Just a couple days later, we started hearing about companies that were bonusing — that were bonusing employees — and taking the kind of action that we just celebrated a minute ago. And I remember the President kind of hit me on the shoulder in the Oval Office and he said, “Did you think people would, like, be handing out bonuses, like, in the first few weeks?” I said, “I didn’t even know.”

I mean, it was — you all had a vote of confidence immediately. And you said to your workers, you said to your employees, you said to the American people, this is what we need. And it literally revived the confidence of the American people.

In fact, yesterday, I was just in South Carolina and I met with proud NAM members, Bill and Lou Kennedy of Nephron Pharmaceuticals. They were out there just like all of you. They were championing those tax cuts. They were saying the difference that they were going to make. And literally — literally, within hours — Jay, you know this story — literally, within hours of when the President signed the tax cuts into law, they gave every employee at Nephron Pharmaceuticals a 5 percent raise. It was an incredible contribution. And you can give them a round of applause. I just think the world of those special people. (Applause.) A great growing company.

And I just heard they’re getting ready to invest another $80 million to expand their facility outside Columbia. Just — it’s incredible. And it’s really working. And you all know it’s working. You don’t need me to wrap up your conference here today to tell you this is a booming economy.

And I’m really here just to pay a debt of gratitude. And not just gratitude — not just gratitude from our administration, but can I just also express appreciation on behalf of working Americans?

I mean, the truth is, Bill and Lou and Nicole and Rex are emblematic of all of the members of NAM. You’ve been investing in your companies, investing in working Americans thanks to the policies of this President and this administration. And you’ve really revived the confidence of the American people and opened doors of opportunity.

And make no mistake about it — and you know it when you’ve walked the line at your company or you head down to the company cafeteria, they know what’s going on. I mean, it’s amazing to me. I hear a lot of debate on the other side of the aisle that’s trying to talk down this economy, and I think they’re going to have a real problem selling that to the American people. I mean, people know what’s happening. They’ve got more money in their pockets.

I mean, literally, the average American household today has more than $5,000 in their pockets in disposable income every year, thanks to the policies that NAM has supported. And they know it.

I got to tell you, I took a day and half vacation. It’s what we call a “spring break” in my line of work. (Laughter.) And we went down to — we went to — I don’t know if you all know Fort Myers; there’s a place called Sanibel Island. It’s just off of Fort Myers, Florida. The President goes to Palm Beach; I go to Sanibel Island. (Laughter.)

Karen and I were sitting out on the beach, Jay. True story. We were sitting out on the beach. Had sunglasses on, ball caps. Thought we were incognito, right? (Laughter.) Except that the local newspaper all — you know, had told that we were on the island. We love going there. Been going there for 30 years.

And, anyway, we were sitting on the beach, and these two big boys in Budweiser shirts, tattoos down their arms, came walking by. And one of them looked at me, and he stopped and he pointed at me, and he said, “You’re Pence.” (Laughter.) And I said, “Yes, sir. I am.” (Laughter.) And he looked at me and he said, “Well, listen, you’ve got to tell the President to keep doing what he is doing, because I made twice as much money last year as I made the year before.” (Laughter.) But I told him I would. I promised him that. (Applause.) And I did. I did.

And then he took two steps away and was kind of smiling to himself. He turned back around and he said, “And I don’t know what you do, but keep doing what you’re doing too.” (Laughter.) And I told him I would. (Applause.)

I mean, it’s amazing. It’s amazing to think of all that’s happened here. And NAM has been there every step of the way. You really have. And it hasn’t just been the tax cuts that you were out supporting. I mean, the changes in federal red tape and regulation — the regulatory relief that we’ve been able to pass, working in partnership with businesses around the country, have literally saved the American people, we think, about $3,100 per household, reducing the burden of regulations.

You know, when he was running for this office, our President promised that for every new regulation we’d produce, that we would eliminate two regulations. And I got to be honest with you: You didn’t keep that promise exactly. Because the truth is, as I stand before you today, President Trump has actually eliminated seven regulations for every new federal rule put on the books. (Applause.)

I mean, President Trump, with the strong support of our allies in the Congress, literally in three short years, has rolled back more federal red tape than any President in American history.

In fact, under the President’s leadership, more than 90 percent of the regulations that NAM identified as hurting American manufacturing have already been cut or simplified. And we’re grateful to each and every one of you.

And that’s how the system should work. You know, my second favorite President is Ronald Reagan. I’ll let you guess who my favorite President is. (Laughter.) But Ronald Reagan said famously, in his first inaugural address — he said: Remember, we’re a people with a government, not the other way around. Right?

And what you saw this President do in a classic CEO style was reach out to business leaders around the country and say, “What do you need? What underbrush — without compromising health or safety or environment, what can we clear out of the way so that you can invest and create jobs?” And the truth is, that’s what we’ve been able to do, and NAM has been a critical part of our success.

And thanks to the President’s efforts to roll back red tape, we’ve been able to unleash the economy and unleash American energy. I’m proud to report to you that the Unites States is now the largest producer of oil and natural gas in the world. And this year, we will be a net exporter of energy for the first time is 75 years. (Applause.) How about that?

So it’s been about tax cuts, regulation, it’s been about unleashing American energy, but it’s also been about trade. And this President has been fighting every day for free, fair, and reciprocal trade. We’ve been working to open up markets, but open up markets in a way that puts American jobs, American manufacturing, and American workers first.

Just the last month, it’s been an incredible month of progress. And while the Congress is spending their time on other matters, you saw President Trump sign phase one of a new trade deal with China that for the first time includes the beginning of protections of intellectual property and will increase manufacturing exports by $50 billion in the next two years. (Applause.) It’s a beginning.

China has already begun lifting tariffs on American products. They’ve pledged to end currency manipulation. President Trump has made it clear — he’s made it clear to President Xi and had me make it clear to President Xi and all the leadership of China that while our hearts go out to them as they struggle now with the coronavirus, America is going to continue to stand strong for American jobs and American workers. We’re going to continue to negotiate, to level the playing field for American enterprise with China. The era of economic surrender is over. (Applause.)

And, of course, just a couple of weeks after signing the phase one China deal — many of you were on the South Lawn of the White House when, thanks to your strong support and the support of millions of Americans and our allies in the Congress, President Trump signed the largest trade deal in American history: the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement. (Applause.) It really is an incredible accomplishment.

We were talking — Mike and Jay and I were talking backstage with many members of the board about — I mean, the incredible accomplishment, which we believe would not have been possible with [sic] the support of business and strong support of all the business leaders gathered here.

And we all know the impact that NAFTA had. For decades before President Trump took office — I don’t have to tell all of you — we literally saw tens of thousands of factories close. Nearly a million jobs were lost or sent south of the border, including a quarter of a million manufacturing jobs.

But as a candidate, and long before he ever thought about running for President, President Donald Trump knew we could do better. He knew we could renegotiate our trading relationship with Canada and Mexico in a way that put America first — that put American jobs, American workers, and American manufacturing first.

And I watched him in these negotiations, and I got to tell you, he drove a hard bargain. This President rolled his sleeves up, he dug in, and we have a deal in the USMCA that is an unambiguous win for American workers, American manufacturing, and American agriculture. And we are grateful to each and every one of you for helping to bring it about. (Applause.)

I mean, the truth is, under this President’s leadership, we’ve already seen, thanks to companies like all of yours, 12,000 new factories built in this country. And we think the USMCA — thanks to your strong support and the support of millions of Americans — is going to create another 600,000 new jobs, including, we think, at least 50,000 manufacturing jobs right out of the gate. It really is remarkable to think.

And it’s not just more jobs; it’s going to be better jobs. Our best estimate suggests that with the growth that the USMCA is going to drive in this country, we’re projecting to see wages increase overall, and the biggest increases are projected to go to manufacturing workers as manufacturing continues to strengthen in this country.

And I know that without the strong support of the NAM, all of that might not have been possible. You know, it’s remarkable to think, you and your members held more than 1,000 meetings with members of Congress, you hosted events for the President, for myself at great companies like Caterpillar, JLS Automation, Shot North, Patriot Industries.

And I traveled, literally, to 18 states at the President’s direction. I might have been stopping in the districts of freshman Democrats in Congress just to make our point, but it was NAM every step of the way that was there saying, “For manufacturing, for America, we need the USMCA.” So on behalf of the President of the United States and working Americans everywhere, thank you, NAM, for your support of the USMCA. (Applause.) You made a difference. You made a difference.

So we’ve made great progress. We’ve made great progress opening markets around the world and unleashing American growth through tax cuts, regulatory reform, and the like.

But I also came here today, as I did last time we spoke, to ensure you that we’re going to continue to work to make sure that the American people have the skills and the training to meet the needs of a growing competitive manufacturing industry of the future.

Now, this association actually tells us that nearly two thirds of America’s manufacturers are concerned about finding workers with the right skill. Just a few days after a survey of — NFIB found that, that while business optimism is near an all-time high, a quarter of America’s small businesses as well, including manufacturers, express concern about what you all call, “the skills gap.” And I want to assure you that we are focused entirely on that issue.

The good news is, in the last administration, we literally saw 500,000 people leave the American workforce. And in a much unreported number, as the President was celebrating that blue-collar boom in that State of the Union Address the other night, we’re proud to report to the American people: In the last three years, 3.5 million Americans have come back into the workforce. We have a growing American economy because Americans are coming back to work. (Applause.)

And make no mistake about it — make no mistake about it: There’s still a lot of people on the sidelines. Our best estimate — our best estimate, according to our Council of Economic Advisers, is there’s still literally 5- to 6 million able-bodied adults on the sidelines in this economy. And that’s why opportunities to educate, to train, to give people the background and the training to seize the good-paying jobs in companies like yours are more important than ever before.

And as we gather here today — I know it’s just two days after you launched Creators Wanted Campaign — I’m proud to report that President Trump has — will continue to back the efforts just like that one to create job training and vocational education and make it more accessible than ever before.

In fact, all of you know, because you’ve been such a big part of it: A year and a half ago, the President launched our Pledge to America’s Workers. By signing the Pledge, companies like so many of you here, committed to creating training opportunities over the next five years for students, for workers, through apprenticeships, continuing education, and even on-the-job training.

Now, when the Pledge was launched, the first-year goal was 500,000 training opportunities. And once again, we didn’t exactly hit that number. As you all heard earlier this week, we’ve actually reached 15 million training opportunities and apprenticeships in America. American business is opening the doors to train American’s workers, and we thank you. (Applause.)

I mean, the President and I couldn’t be more grateful to people in this room. We’ve secured training for nearly 1.2 million manufacturing workers across this country. And I just want you to know we’re going to continue to partner with you.

And let me just take the opportunity to say thank you for acknowledging a member of our administration who is — has a heart for American workers and a heart for American families. She is literally one of the — this administration’s greatest champions of working families. And let me just thank you for extending the Alexander Hamilton Award to Ivanka Trump. She is so well deserving and she’s making a difference for working families. Thank you for that. (Applause.)

But just as you’re helping to close the skills gap through the Creators Wanted Campaign, you’ve also been a strong advocate — a strong advocate for the President’s agenda to rebuild America.

You know, I love to remind people that the American people elected a builder to be President of the United States. And I promise you, you’ve never had anyone in the Oval Office more committed to rebuilding America’s roads and bridges and airports and ports than President Donald Trump. (Applause.)

I mean, you have your own “Building to Win” plan. You said that America should invest a trillion dollars in infrastructure over the next 10 years. And I’m sure you all took notice of the fact that with the strong support of NAM, the President just released our budget that called for a trillion dollars of investment in infrastructure over the next 10 years. And we’re going to work our hearts out to get it done. (Applause.)

I mean, this is a President that understands, as a builder, that roads mean jobs. And I’m not talking road jobs; we’re talking about the right infrastructure is absolutely essential to the opportunity to expand and grow and create opportunities in communities large and small.

I saw it when I was governor of the state of Indiana. When manufacturing was ready to grow, we started talking about pavement and curbs and asphalt, and it’s absolutely vital. And I want you to understand this administration understands that.

And I just want to encourage you that even in these divided times on Capitol Hill, there is still time. I’m told by some Democrat leaders in Congress that they’ve got a bill; we’ve got a bill in the United States Senate. We’re ready to go to work. I know we got elections coming up this November, but there’s no time like the present. Congress should work on an infrastructure bill and they should work on it and get it done this year. (Applause.) Go tell them that.

So I really just came to say thanks. Thanks to your strong support of this President and his agenda, the strong support of our allies in Congress, we’ve been able to cut taxes, roll back red tape, unleash American energy, fight for free and fair trade, and create millions of training opportunities for the American people. And when you look at this record, it’s really been remarkable to think about it.

I want to say to all of you — I hope you have figured out already: American manufacturing has never had a greater champion in the Oval Office than President Donald Trump. And we’re going to keep working every day — keep working every day to not just to earn your confidence, but to give you confidence to invest; to give you the confidence to know that this is a President that believes in growth.

And I just wanted to come by today to say thank you. I know it’s been a long few days for all of you, and you’ve probably got a stack of emails and mail and business waiting for you back at your desk. I know how that works. But I’m really honored — really honored to have a chance to maybe send you off from this board meeting just with a word of gratitude, really and truly.

It’s amazing to think of what NAM has meant in the life of this country for 125 years. A hundred and twenty-five years ago, 500 manufacturers gathered just a few steps from the Ohio River and decided that American manufacturing needed a voice in Washington, D.C., and in statehouses across the country, and they came together.

Now, those 500 original members are 14,000 companies, and 90 percent of them are small- and medium-sized businesses like so many that are so well represented here on this board.

Members of this association made incredible contributions, as I said before, to the life of our nation. From the Model T, to the microchip, 747, and beyond, companies represented in this room make products used around our nation, around the world, and in the vast reaches of outer space.

And we’re going to continue to promote the policies that make it more possible for you to create even more. I mean, manufacturing has changed a lot since those days 125 years ago, but one thing will never change: Manufacturing and people who make things are the backbone of the American economy. It’s true today and it will always be true. (Applause.)

So I’ll make you a promise: This President, this Vice President, and our administration are going to continue to work — continue to work as we revive the American economy together, as we keep this boom growing.

So I want to encourage you to keep supporting all the policies we’ve talked about today, and keep supporting the people that support them. I mean, we’ve got a little election coming up here in a few months, and we’ll be grateful for your support.

But I think it’s just — we’re going to work our hearts out to get President Donald Trump four more years in the White House. But I think we also ought to make sure we get behind men and women and we elect pro-growth Republican majorities to the United States Senate again, and we reelect a conservative, Republican majority to the United States House of Representatives. We’ll get America growing again, and we’ll advance this agenda that has a more prosperous America working. (Applause.)

So go tell the story to your suppliers, to your business associates, to all your contacts, to your friends, to your neighbors. Tell them all that we’ve accomplished. Talk about how we’ve been able to unleash this economy through commonsense American policies.

You know, that’s the President’s favorite term. He’ll stop conversations sometimes in the Oval Office and say, “It’s just common sense.” And that’s what we’ve been advancing, is the common sense and the common values of the American people that understand that when you let people keep more of what they earn, when you get government out of the way, when you open up markets on a fair and a balanced way around the world, when you unleash the vast natural resources of America, America comes roaring back.

You all have proven that every day over the last three years. And we’re going to work our hearts out to make sure you continue to prove it.

And finally, let me just thank you for one other way. You know, I believe with all of my heart that every one of us are born with certain God-given abilities. Some have the gift of leadership, and you all have proven that in your lives and in your careers. Some have the gift of service. Some have the gift of hospitality.

But some, as all of you know better than most, are gifted with the skill to create, to build things, to make things. I mean, you all know it’s been the engineers, it’s been the craftsman, the welder, the carpenter, the brick-layer, the mechanic that have built America.

And all of you, and all of your companies, large and small, you create opportunities for people to live out their calling. And that really should be the object of our education system in this country is to help people discover those God-given abilities and then put them to work to create a better future for themselves, their families, their community, and their nation.

I mean, the truth of the matter is that all of you have enriched — in your careers, in the life of your companies, and the life of this nation — manufacturing has enriched the lives of American families in countless ways.

And I promise you we’re going to continue. And we’re going to continue to work closely with you to make sure that those dreams can continue to come true for working Americans, as your companies continue to grow and expand in this economy.

And I truly do believe that thanks — thanks to your great support at the National Association of Manufacturers, we’ve made America great again.

And with your continued support, and with President Donald Trump in the White House, with the support of millions of Americans who enjoy the benefits and the opportunities your companies afford: We’re going to see American manufacturing strengthen like never before. We’re going to create more through greater innovation than ever before. We’re going to sell it across this country and sell it across this world. And with your help and your leadership and God’s help, we’ll keep America great.

Thanks, everybody. God bless you. (Applause.) Thank you for your leadership. God bless America.

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