frederica-wilson_web.jpgThink back for a minute to 2008. The job and housing markets were collapsing and credit was frozen solid. Employment and the gross domestic product (GDP) were falling and layoffs were rising. 

We were in a free-fall. We lost more jobs the month President Barack Obama took office than in any month in the previous 60 years.

Then, three years ago, the president signed the Recovery Act. Slowly but surely things have been getting better. Private sector employment and GDP are now rising. Layoffs are back to pre-recession levels. And, in every single one of the last 23 months, American companies have added jobs, totaling 3.7 million and counting.

But the law wasn’t designed for just the short-term. It also invested for the future, laying a foundation for an economy built on sustainable growth and a strong middle class. That starts with American manufacturing – and it can’t happen without it.

It’s working. Manufacturers are creating jobs for the first time since the 1990s. They’ve grown for 30 straight months, adding nearly 400,000 jobs across the country.

Today, the American auto industry is back. Since the Recovery Act and the turnaround it sparked, the auto industry has added more than 200,000 jobs. 

 That wasn’t an accident. When others said we should abandon the auto industry, President Obama stood up for America’s best workers, the communities they live in and the companies where many spent their entire careers.

Detroit’s Big Three are all profitable at the same time. That hasn’t happened in a decade. GM is once again the No. 1 car company in the world and it recently announced its biggest profits ever.

This stunning turnaround in American manufacturing is important. When American companies are strong, our country is stronger. When more Floridians have jobs, there’s more money in our economy. More local restaurants and shops and other start-ups thrive and those businesses then create more jobs. That virtuous cycle makes the free market what it is and it’s always led to American success.

President Obama wants that cycle to continue. He’s cut taxes for manufacturers and small businesses, helping them make new investments and create even more jobs.

He wants to stop rewarding companies that send American jobs overseas and, instead, reward the ones that bring jobs back home. We can’t get ahead by outsourcing to other countries, only by out-hustling them, by out-innovating and out-building the world.

That’s why the president signed important trade agreements and set a national goal of doubling our exports by 2015. We’re actually ahead of schedule to meet that target. Here, in Florida, manufacturing exports grew last year by 20.6 percent.

We’re moving in the right direction but we’ve got a lot more to do. Our progress isn’t a cause for celebration; it’s a reminder to keep working hard. And we can’t afford to bring back the same tried — and failed — ideas that created this mess in the first place. That’s really the choice before Floridians and all Americans this fall.

The Republicans have no new ideas for creating jobs, manufacturing or otherwise. They have no new ideas for making America as competitive as it can and must be.

 The Republicans would cut critical investments in community colleges, infrastructure, clean energy, innovation and scientific research. That might please the far right but it’s no way to help America get ahead.

America’s manufacturers know who has their best interests at heart, and it’s not the Republicans.

President Obama knows you don’t bet against the United States and its workers. And, because of his leadership, more and more consumers around the world are now buying products stamped with three proud words: “Made in America.”

Frederica Wilson represents Florida's 17th congressional district in the U.S. House of Representatives. She wrote this commentary on the occasion of the anniversary of President Barack Obama’s signing the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 on Feb. 17, 2009.

Photo: Frederica Wilson