The Brian Lehrer Show

The American Dream in Detroit

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Charlie LeDuff, son of Detroit, former New York Times reporter, T.V. reporter for Detroit's Fox2 News and author of Detroit: An American Autopsy, talks about what the story of Detroit can tell us about the past and future of American manufacturing, and what lessons can be learned.


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Money Talking

Money Talking: Will Manufacturing Rescue the Economy?

Friday, February 08, 2013

The rising cost of labor in China, high-tech robots, and even 3D printing are bringing manufacturing operations back to the United States. But will it guarantee more jobs for American workers?



Portrait of a Gun Manufacturing Town

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

When New York passed a wave of new gun-control laws in January, it outlawed a type of assault rifle made just over an hour's drive from the state capital.

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Money Talking

Money Talking: Do Americans Care If It's Made in the USA?

Friday, November 23, 2012

Grey is the new black when it comes to post-Turkey shopping. In a growing phenomenon known as "Grey Thursday," more of the largest U.S. retailers are opening on Thanksgiving Day, offering consumers deals a day earlier than Black Friday.

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The Takeaway

Credit for Northeast Ohio's Economic Boom Not a Given for Obama

Friday, October 26, 2012

Ohio is on the economic mend — the Lordstown GM plant is humming, along with a brand new billion-dollar steel plant and the discovery of shale natural gas — but can Obama claim credit? Takeaway Washington correspondent Todd Zwillich talked with workers and undecided voters on this battleground to find out.

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Annotations: The NEH Preservation Project

Dr Kranich, your piano's ready. I'm afraid it's not built by your dad.

Friday, October 19, 2012


On March 5, 1853 a German piano maker named Henry Steinway (né Steinweg) founded Steinway & Sons at 85 Varick Street in New York City, barely five blocks from the present-day WNYC studios. Less than three months later another, much younger German piano maker named Helmuth Kranich would also arrive at these shores. Little did he suspect that one of his children would someday work at a competing form of entertainment: radio, specifically WNYC.

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The Takeaway

Is Manufacturing the Key to Innovation?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The revival of American manufacturing has been a constant refrain in presidential campaigns, and 2012 is no exception. But does American manufacturing have a future? In a new book, "Producing Prosperity: Why America Needs a Manufacturing Renaissance," Harvard Business School professors Gary Pisano and Willy Shih argue that it must — and that manufacturing is the key to American innovation.

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The Leonard Lopate Show

Manufacturing and America's Future

Friday, September 28, 2012

Ro Khanna, a former deputy assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce, argues that, despite everything you've heard about the economy, America continues to be a world leader in manufacturing. In Entrepreneurial Nation: Why Manufacturing is Still Key to America’s Future, he shows that innovative companies are staying ahead of the curve, and looks at why the American steel industry, aerospace companies, the defense technology sector are still world leaders.

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The Brian Lehrer Show

What We Know About Foxconn

Monday, April 02, 2012

Rob Schmitz, China correspondent of Martketplace, to talk about his recent visit to the Foxconn plant, and answer listener questions about electronics manufacturing in China

Comments [22]

Transportation Nation

BART's New Fleet: Made in the USA, but Maybe Not in California

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Postcard of BART in the 1970s. Image courtesy of BART.

This year is BART’s 40th birthday. While some people swear that 40 is the new 30, when it comes to subway systems, 40 is just plain over-the-hill. About two-thirds of Bay Area Rapid Transit cars have been running the rails since the system opened, in 1972.

Paul Oversier is in charge of operations at BART. He says that because BART trains run long distances and at higher speeds than other subway systems, it gives the system a dubious distinction. “We have the oldest cars, and we run them the hardest,” he says.

It’s time for new trains. But building them won’t be cheap: BART estimates it will cost more than $3 billion to replace all 775 cars.

Right now, three companies are in the running to build the new fleet. One is in France, one is in South Korea, and third is in Canada.

Scott Haggerty is an Alameda County Supervisor who sits on the board of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission. He’s not surprised that bids for the massive job are coming in from all over the world, but he doesn’t think the world should build BART’s cars.

“At a minimum, those cars should be built in the U.S.,” says Haggerty. “But that’s not even going to make me happy. Those cars should be built within the BART district.”

On paper, it makes sense. Building BART cars here would mean keeping those billions of dollars, and thousands of jobs, where BART riders actually live. According to BART’s Paul Oversier, there’s just one problem. “There haven’t been any domestic subway car builders in the United States for decades,” he says.

Oversier says even if BART wanted to give the contract to a U.S. company, they couldn’t do it – the last domestic company that built subway cars closed up shop in 1987. But, he says, that doesn’t mean no Americans will benefit from the project. “It's really a misnomer to say the cars are being built overseas,” he says. “They're being built in the United States, using American parts, using American workers. It just so happens that the corporation that’s operating that plant is an international corporation.”

To understand how this works, you need to know about a law known as “Buy America.” It’s been around since 1983.

Scott Paul is the executive director of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, an industry group based in Washington DC. He says it doesn’t matter if a company is foreign or domestic, as long as the manufacture happens in the U.S.

“The idea is that through that taxpayer investment, we’ll be supporting jobs in this country as opposed to a place like China, for instance,” says Paul.

The idea of buying American has guided some of the country’s signature transportation projects. As far back as 1933, Congress required that federally financed construction projects use American materials.

“We’ve had this policy through the building of the interstate highway system,” says Paul. “Ronald Reagan actually expanded it to transit programs.”

Almost three-quarters of the money BART is using to pay for the new cars comes from the federal government. Under Buy America, that means whichever company gets the contract has to do at least 60% of that work in the U.S. But BART doesn’t get to decide where in the U.S. that work gets done––they have to go where the companies are. So while the cars could be built in California, BART can’t require that.

“There’s not an enormous demand for subway cars in the United States,” says Paul.  “So it doesn’t make a lot of sense for several manufacturers to have a permanent presence when the market is so sporadic and limited to just a few big city agencies.”

Right now, none of the car builders BART is considering have plants in California. That’s what bothers Supervisor Scott Haggerty. He thinks agencies like BART should be able to use federal dollars to do their projects in-state––and to encourage companies to set up new plants here. Right now, that’s illegal.

“But who set that rule?” asks Haggerty. “When you say it’s illegal, that’s because Congress said it’s illegal. Congress can fix that.”

Last year, BART officials sponsored legislation in California allowing them to give extra weight to bids from foreign companies that exceed Buy America requirements.

So now the agency can legally reward companies that create more American jobs. But that doesn’t change the fact that there’s no infrastructure to do the work in California.

Right now, the car builders BART is considering have plants in New York and Philadelphia. “But that’s not to say that they might not open a plant somewhere else,” says BART’s Paul Oversier. “It’s a big enough order that the economics might be such for the car builders that it might make sense, from a business standpoint, to open a plant somewhere else. But that bridge will be crossed later on.”

BART expects final bids on the new cars by the end of February. The agency hopes to make a final recommendation to the board in about six weeks.

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The Takeaway

Evaluating Obama's Proposed Corporate Tax Cut

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Obama administration proposed an overhaul of the corporate tax code. He wants to cut the top corporate rate down to 28% in exchange for closing loopholes.

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The Leonard Lopate Show

Backstory: American Manufacturing

Thursday, February 09, 2012

More goods are being produced in American factories that in recent decades, but employment in those same facilities is falling. Adam Davidson, co-founder and co-host of Planet Money, a co-production of NPR and This American Life, discusses the decline of American manufacturing jobs and looks at why the jobs crisis will be so difficult to solve. He's the author of "Making It in America," in the January/February issue of The Atlantic.

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Niche Market | Rolling Ladders

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

New York is a city of specialists from foodies to academics, laborers to shopkeepers. Every Wednesday, Niche Market will take a peek inside a different specialty store and showcase the city's purists who have made an art out of selling one commodity. Slideshow below.

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The Takeaway

Can Anyone Resurrect 'Made in the USA'?

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The main focus of Tuesday’s State of the Union address was the economy and income inequality. Along with his ideas about taxation and protecting homeowners, president Obama also expressed a desire to bring manufacturing jobs back to the U.S. Since the 1980s, the U.S. economy has shifted away from manufacturing and towards intellectual property and services. This has been due in part to the perceived expenses involved in production based in the U.S., as well as labor laws. 

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The Brian Lehrer Show

Creating and Keeping Manufacturing Jobs

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Adam Davidson, co-host of NPR's "Planet Money", discusses his Atlantic cover story, which profiles a plant in South Carolina that may serve as a model for the future of manufacturing and job creation in the U.S.

Comments [15]

The Leonard Lopate Show

Please Explain: Polyester and Synthetics

Friday, December 16, 2011

Earlier this year we looked at the natural fibers wool and silk, and this week we’re talking about polyester and other synthetics! Polyester is used in carpeting, building materials, and clothing. Sean Cormier, assistant professor in the Textile Design and Marketing Department at the Fashion Institute of Technology, and Jill Dumain, Director of Environmental Strategy at Patagonia, explain how polyester and other synthetics are made and how they’re used.

Comments [21]

The Takeaway

Manufacturing In US Continues to Grow

Monday, December 05, 2011

One of the bright spots in the American economy right now is coming from the manufacturing sector. According to the Institute for Supply Management’s monthly survey of purchasing and supply executives, activity at U.S. factories has grown at its fastest rate in five months. And in the automobile sector, the growth rate is translating into new jobs.



Electric Vehicles to be Manufactured in the Bronx

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

An electric truck maker is opening up a factory in the Bronx — saying it wants to be near a market for zero-emission delivery vehicles.


The Takeaway

Industry, Iconography, and Decline: Detroit and Berlin

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Two cities, both alike in industry: Detroit, U.S.A. and Berlin, Germany. In a recent series for WDET, Martina Guzman explored the similarities and differences between the two iconic hubs of industry that came into their own in the 20th century. 

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The Takeaway

'That Used to Be Us': Staging America's Comeback

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Tonight, President Obama will unveil his plan for creating more jobs in America. Obama returned from summer vacation to the dismal news that the country gained no new jobs in August. Unemployment continues to hover around nine percent and it is likely to stay that way through 2012. While the U.S. faces a slow economic decline, countries like China and India are on the rise. "It makes no sense for China to have better rail systems than us, and Singapore having better airports than us," the president noted in his speech following the 2010 midterm elections. "And we just learned that China now has the fastest supercomputer on Earth — that used to be us."

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