08/10/2010 04:50 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

America Plus Exports Equals Prosperity

Once again, the American people have it right. The results of a recently released nationwide poll by respected Democratic and Republican pollsters found that Americans view expanding the manufacturing base as the most important tool to creating and stabilizing jobs in our country. And the research backs them up; last week's Brookings Institute study found that America's manufacturing base is the most export oriented industry and "increasing the nation's exports holds out the potential of generating a significant number of good-paying jobs in the United States."

At the same time, President Obama announced the President's Export Council, as part of his National Export Initiative, to focus on creating 5 million jobs by doubling U.S. exports abroad. Why is that important? At our family business Vermeer Corporation in Pella, IA over a third of our jobs are dependent on international trade - that's 600-700 of our dedicated people. Countless more local jobs and businesses are positively impacted from the indirect benefits of exporting American goods.

Many people don't realize how easing trade restrictions in places like Korea and China can simultaneously save and create American jobs. Over the next 5 years, almost 90% of the economic growth in the world will take place outside the United States. So if American businesses want to sell equipment, we need to expand our exports under trade agreements that remove barriers to opening markets for our products in other nations. Without new opportunities to sell equipment, the manufacturing workforce will deteriorate even further.

The economic crisis we have experienced in the last part of this decade stands in stark contrast to the robust growth and economic prosperity of the U.S. in the 1990's. Perhaps our elected officials are beginning to recall that one of the major drivers in the previous decade was American exports. Indeed, more than a quarter of all the economic growth we experienced in the 1990's was directly related to the exporting of American-made products.

If the President can meet his goal of doubling U.S. exports in the next five years with the new National Export Initiative, this country will be well on its way to meaningful expansion of the manufacturing base, and stable job growth. This is a good and realistic objective, assuming Congress and the Administration work together on a framework for implementing meaningful trade policies.

Asking our policymakers to take an active role in protecting the jobs of millions of American workers by opening closed trading markets across the globe for American-made equipment is far from "any means necessary." It's simply the right thing to do.

Bob Vermeer, Chairman of the Board of Vermeer Corporation of Pella, Iowa, is a member of the Board of Directors of the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM). Mary Vermeer Andringa is CEO of Vermeer Corporation and a member of the President's Export Council.

AEM is comprised of more than 800 companies and 200-plus product lines in the agriculture, construction, forestry, mining and utility sectors worldwide working to advance the off‐road equipment manufacturing industry in the global marketplace.