When he was CEO and chairman of Charlotte steelmaker Nucor, Dan DiMicco used his bully pulpit to expound on the importance of rebuilding America’s manufacturing base.
After retiring last year, the outspoken 64-year-old is focusing even more on his passion, making speeches regularly, laying out his views on an eponymous website and writing a book called “American Made” to be published in February.
On Wednesday, DiMicco was preaching to the choir when he spoke at an annual sales meeting for Bosch Rexroth, an engineering and manufacturing company with its North American headquarters in Charlotte. The address was part gloomy update on the state of U.S. manufacturing, part prescription for fixing the problem.
“You have to become champions for manufacturing,” DiMicco, wearing a Nucor-branded polo shirt, told the audience in a meeting room at BB&T BallPark in uptown. “No one is going to do it for you.”
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DiMicco’s message is that the recovery from the 2007 recession has been much slower than in past downturns because America turned its back on manufacturing, outsourcing production to other countries as it focused on becoming a consumer-driven, service-based economy. The unemployment rate is now back in the 6 percent range, but it’s really much higher when you count part-time workers who want to work full time, he said.
To become a nation that makes and build things, DiMicco said the U.S. needs to continue efforts to become energy independent, fix its foreign trade imbalance, rebuild infrastructure and repair America’s “regulatory and tax nightmare,” he said.
“It’s a mission I’ve taken on in my retirement,” said DiMicco, who recently spoke in San Diego and has other appearances lined up in Charlotte, Seattle, and Buffalo, N.Y.
After the speech, DiMicco pointed to Bosch Rexroth as an example of a company that is boosting production in the U.S. because it’s a more efficient way to serve North American customers. In the past, Nucor has used the company’s products to improve the efficiency of its steel mills, he said.
Rexroth is part of Germany’s Bosch Group, which is perhaps best-known for its appliances and tools. Bosch Rexroth has about 200 employees in Charlotte and moved its North American headquarters here in 2011. In 2013, it had sales of $7.6 billion.
After the meeting, executives showed off some of the products Bosch Rexroth makes in Charlotte, including conveyor systems and linear motors that can be incorporated into customers’ manufacturing facilities.
Erwin Wieckowski, executive vice president for factory automation, said Bosch Rexroth’s plant off Carowinds Boulevard recently moved to three shifts from two to meet demand from a U.S. client, a sign that its local production strategy is paying off.
“It’s working,” he said. “We’re growing.”