Athens is a university town. Plains is a peanut town. Gainesville is a chicken town.
Dalton is a manufacturing town.
We have been a manufacturing town since the advent of the carpet industry and even before that, and while some people may think that makes us passé, it is who we are.
More than one out of every three people who work in Whitfield County work in manufacturing and its presence here undergirds our entire economy.
Increasingly, however, being a manufacturing town makes us unique.
Manufacturing jobs used to dominate the work force, but that day has long since passed. The United States is now more of an economy based on information and providing services and those places where manufacturing is still king are few and far between.
All of which is why Dalton is the perfect place to host the first Manufacturing Summit, which is Thursday afternoon at the trade center.
If the purpose of the summit is to highlight the importance of manufacturing to the national economy and to discuss ways to renew manufacturing across the country, where better to do it than in a town that still embraces the notion of making a product?
We may not think much of being the Carpet Capital of the World, but it is amazing when you step back and think that most of the world’s carpet comes from right here in Northwest Georgia.
We are the center of an important, high-tech manufacturing industry and there is nothing wrong with getting to boast about that for a little while this week.
What we hope is that this summit isn’t just a one-day event but helps launch a broader discussion about the need to better protect our existing industries and look for ways to re-foster industrial growth in this country.
As Dalton Mayor David Pennington puts it, “This summit will be the beginning of a renewed focus on manufacturing and the importance it has to our overall economy. Since Dalton is one of the last manufacturing clusters in America, it only makes sense that we lead this.”
America used to be a nation of builders and inventors. We were the machine shop for the world and from our factories flowed the goods that defeated fascism and made America the world’s foremost superpower.
You can’t turn back the hands of time, and it is unlikely that we will return to the same place that we occupied in the half century following World War II, but there is a gathering consensus that the country must redevelop its manufacturing base to keep pace with the emerging economies around the world.
One of the speakers at the summit, Stephen Moore, who is a columnist and editorial board member of The Wall Street Journal, will discuss how manufacturing leads to economic growth. In a recent column headlined “We’ve Become a Nation of Takers, Not Makers,” Moore notes there are nearly twice as many people in America working for government than in manufacturing.
Those are numbers we need to see flipped around.
It is only through events like this, in places like Dalton, that this is going to happen.