It's always good to know who your friends are. For American manufacturers, it's particularly good to know who in the federal government are your friends. Let's start with Albert Frink, assistant secretary of commerce for manufacturing and services. In September, we suggested that it's about time manufacturers had a real advocate at this level in Washington, and wished Mr. Frink a speedy confirmation of his nomination.

Frink's nomination was confirmed recently and he took the opportunity afforded by the International Manufacturing Technology Show to hit the ground running. The day after Frink took the oath of office in Washington, he was on the floor at IMTS 2004 in Chicago, meeting with representatives of the machine tool industry. "I'm here to be an advocate for manufacturing," he said. "Manufacturing is not getting the respect it deserves and that's a tragedy." Frink believes a strong manufacturing sector is vital to the nation and we have every confidence that he will be a staunch advocate for manufacturing in Washington.

Manufacturing has friends in Congress as well. There are lawmakers who really understand that American business cannot compete successfully in the global marketplace unless spiraling costs for employee health care, regulatory compliance and the frivolous litigation that serves only to drive jobs overseas-and enrich trial lawyers-are brought under control. The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM, Washington) recently recognized these lawmakers in the 108th Congress.

John Engler, NAM president, explained that the 279 lawmakers he calls the "true allies of manufacturing" were honored with NAM's Award for Manufacturing Legislative Excellence because they compiled at least a 70 percent record of voting for NAM-designated key manufacturing issues. The 23 key issues that came before the Senate included tax relief for small business investment, asbestos litigation reform, oil and gas exploration, and medical liability. The 22 key issues that came before the House included class action and Medicare reform, and overtime regulations. Lawmakers were honored with the award based on their voting records on these key manufacturing issues. In fact, one-third of the 279 voted for every key manufacturing issue.

There are also those in Congress who seem to thwart American manufacturers at virtually every turn. NAM identified lawmakers in the 108th Congress that voted against those same key manufacturing issues at least 90 percent of the time. Engler calls this group, comprised of five senators and 78 representatives, the anti-manufacturing caucus. Although one frequently finds many of these lawmakers claiming to support manufacturing, he says, their voting records make it clear that they haven't supported manufacturing.

We suggest that you visit to learn more about the voting records of these lawmakers. We'll leave it to you to decide who are the friends of manufacturing and who are "others."