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Every four years our nation elects a president. It’s a reassuring constant in our ongoing democracy and a collective action that can truly initiate a shift in the direction of our country.  History shows us that every four years important issues will be affected by the outcome of our presidential election process.

The 2016 election will hinge on a variety of issues such as the replacement of a Supreme Court justice and the future of Obamacare. Another issue that needs to be at the center of the national debate is the state of our domestic manufacturing sector. Our manufacturing plants have been downsizing for years and many even shutting down. It’s time that we take a hard look at why that is happening and work to take corrective action instead of just listening to vague sound bites  from presidential candidates as to how we rebuild our economy.

York County has a long history of being a manufacturing hub. The Harley Davidson factory on Route 30 is one of the finest examples of true American manufacturing prowess. Unfortunately plants like these – whether they make motorcycles, sneakers or steel beams – are under attack from foreign producers.

Pennsylvania has lost more than 120,000 manufacturing jobs in the last decade.  While I understand there are always changes occurring within our economy, especially as technology continues to play a more pivotal role in production methods, 120,000 jobs represents more than just a few new computers.  It is indicative of the outsourcing of jobs and relocation of countless plants to countries overseas.  Due to outdated or unfavorable trade regulations global interests are taking jobs away from American workers at an alarming rate.

I am not opposed to foreign goods. I don’t just buy products that have the Made in America label. A competitive but fair global economy is good for all mankind. I believe that the next president must take a firm stand in support of our manufacturing sector. We are at a point where definitive action must be taken. Either we stand with our manufacturers and defend them against cheap products like steel being dumped on U.S. markets or we abandon them to a very unappealing economic fate.

Our country cannot continue to thrive if we simply capitulate and allow foreign producers to put American workers on the unemployment line. Strong action is needed and I call on all of the presidential candidates to clearly articulate how they are going to combat the decline of once-mighty U.S. manufacturing base. We can and must reverse this trend.

Chris Reilly is a York County commissioner.

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