Kansas rep Sharice Davids makes more products in the U.S.

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Kansas City Kansas Community College's Automation Engineering program is the education America's manufacturers need.

Kansas City Kansas Community College’s Automation Engineering program is the education America’s manufacturers need.

As we come together this 4th of July with our friends and family, we might celebrate with fireworks, parades and burgers — myself included — but what we’re really celebrating are our American values. It is a nation of innovators, doers and creators, and has been since the first Independence Day.

But over the past few decades, we’ve lost jobs – lost entire industries – overseas. This inevitably became clear as the pandemic upended the global economy and tangled supply chains. But the reality is that we’ve been dependent on products made in other countries for too long, and it’s steadily eroding our competitive advantage.

On this Independence Day, it’s time to reclaim that edge by investing in the innovation and spirit that brought us here. It’s time to do more in America.

We have seen sparks of this spirit of innovation in recent years. When our medical supply chains came to a halt and frontline workers had no choice but to reuse personal protective equipment, putting themselves at risk, our small and medium-sized manufacturers stepped in. Companies here in Kansas shifted production toward the masks and gowns our health care workers desperately needed.

It’s local flexibility that we need to support – and that’s why I’ve introduced legislation to make more medical supplies here at home, especially in emergencies.

But not all industries have had this opportunity to pivot. In Kansas City, Kansas, a General Motors plant sat idle for seven months last year due to shortages of semiconductor chips. I spoke with the unionized auto workers who were offline all those months with no work through no fault of their own. They’ve fallen victim to a trend that came to a head last year: Chip production has moved almost entirely overseas since 2000, with the United States steadily losing a quarter of its manufacturing jobs.

This trend has not only harmed the automotive industry. I have visited medical providers who care for children with respiratory illnesses – children who are waiting to receive pediatric oxygen machines that rely on microchips to work. These waiting lists are getting longer and longer. All of these supply chain issues are driving up prices for car dealerships, grocery stores and gas stations. We must turn the tide and invest in American workers and American manufacturing. A strong domestic industry will avoid costly delays and reduce inflation.

I’m working with Republicans and Democrats, including GOP Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran, to pass legislation that addresses immediate issues — for example, investing in national chip manufacturing to keep our autoworkers on the job. and providing lifesaving medical devices to children who need them – and that takes a long-term view of American competitiveness.

This means supporting technical education and apprenticeship programs that help fill in-demand jobs in engineering, construction and advanced manufacturing. Last week, I was in Overland Park observing an apprentice mechanic on a construction site. Our workforce is our future, and we need to make sure we develop it in the right places to compete globally.

It also means building resilient and flexible supply chains. We have a convergence of supply chains here in our region, from rail freight to air freight to trucking. Agricultural goods, consumer products and raw materials pass through here en route to other states and countries. As I often tell people in Washington, if Kansas’ 3rd District moves, America moves. And that means we’re in a unique position to help win this supply chain battle – with the right policy.

I visited textile manufacturers, electric battery manufacturers, and shortline railroad hubs — all here in our district. I can tell you that we have the courage, the creativity and the talent to compete with countries like China.

I’m ready to start betting on our team. On this Independence Day, I invite my colleagues in the House and Senate to join me. There’s no better way to celebrate our history than by reinvesting in American innovation and standing up to China. We’ve made good bipartisan progress so far, and I stand ready to continue our work across the aisle and get this bill to the President’s office. Then we can go to the fireworks.

Sharice Davids represents Kansas’ 3rd District in the United States House of Representatives.

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