Entrepreneurial Nation: A book review by Bob Morris

Entrepreneurial Nation: Why Manufacturing Is Still Key to America’s Future
Ro Khanna
McGraw-Hill (2012)

How and why “manufacturers remain at the cornerstone of the U.S. economy and our national security “

Well before the settlements at Jamestown and then Plymouth, the entrepreneurial spirit has guided and driven the development of what became a new nation and has since become a global power. With all due respect to what is widely referred to as a “service economy,” Ro Khanna asserts that “manufacturers remain at the cornerstone of the U.S. economy and our national security, and are indispensable to American greatness.”  In this book, he explains how and why he thinks that is true.  His purpose is to have his book “shine the spotlight on those who help substantiate that claim and who show us the way forward.”

Khanna makes excellent use of various reading-friend devices that include a “Takeaway” section at the conclusion of Chapters 2-8. He also cites dozens of real-world (as opposed to hypothetical) examples of key points such as those that involve diverse organizations that include, for example, Airbus, Cessna Aircraft, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the General Dynamics Red Lion plant, Globe Manufacturing Company, Pucker Powder, the SelectUSA program, Serious Materials, and the World Trade Organization (WTO). I also appreciate Khanna’s extraordinarily informative annotated notes (Pages 213-246) that provide additional information and insights that further illuminate how and why “manufacturers remain at the cornerstone of the U.S. economy and our national security.”

These are among the dozens of passages that caught my eye:

o   Rebalancing Our Economy (Pages 16-17)
o   Keys to the High-Road Strategy (61-62)
o   An Unlevel Playing Field (76-82)
o   The Triple Bottom Line (91-99)
o   Bold Experimentation (117-118)
o   The Immigrant Advantage: Unleashing the Best and the Brightest (138-145)
o   The Onshoring Trend (165-166)
o   Upgrading Our Manufacturing Skills (186-187)
o   Ensuring Our Defense Capability (201-202)
o   A Manufacturing Agenda (206-212)

I agree with Khanna that, at its core, this book “is a rejoinder to [indeed, a repudiation of] stereotypical thinking about manufacturing…[why] it is critical to innovation, and that America is still home to millions of exciting manufacturing careers.”  No reasonable person would deny that the U.S. has long and distinguished traditions in manufacturing, innovation, and entrepreneurship. Obviously, there are more and greater challenges to U.S. business today than ever before. The manufacturing agenda with which Ro Khanna concludes his book suggest critically important issues concerning free trade, tax reform, and federal support. These are issues that must be addressed and then resolved in months and years to come. He believes – and I agree – that our nation is equal to the task and that manufacturing will play a major role.

Those who share my high regard for this volume are urged to check out three others: Larry Schweikart and Lynne Pierson Doti’s American Entrepreneur: The Fascinating Stories of the People Who Defined Business in the United States, In Their Time: The Greatest Business Leaders of The Twentieth Century co-authored by Anthony J. Mayo and Nitin Nohria, and Paths to Power: How Insiders and Outsiders Shaped American Business Leadership co-authored by Mayo, Nohria, and Laura G. Singleton.

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