WASHINGTON, D.C.– National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) President John Engler praised President Bush’s final State of the Union speech, saying manufacturers fully support the President’s focus on economic growth.

“The President is clearly focused on the economy which is very much on everyone’s mind,” Engler said. “We are all agreed on the need to keep our economy strong. The bi-partisan $150 billion growth package is a good start. And President Bush emphasized several other issues vital to the economy – among which are energy independence, tax reduction, promoting exports through more Free Trade Agreements and increased reliance on health care information technology.”

Engler said manufacturers support the administration’s emphasis on innovative approaches to energy independence. “His focus on emerging clean coal technologies is one we all support,” Engler said. “We have an abundance of coal and we can develop ways to use it with less impact on the environment. The president’s focus on fuller development of domestic oil and natural gas resources is right on the money, as is his call to increase our reliance on safe, clean nuclear energy. In the near term, that is essential to keeping energy prices under control. It will be many years before alternative fuels supply a significant portion of our energy mix.”

Manufacturers are keenly interested in the President’s tax proposals, Engler said. “We are particularly focused on reducing the capital gains and corporate income tax rates, as well as making the R&D tax credit permanent. Also, an enhanced capital-cost recovery system allowing companies to expense capital equipment in the tax year purchased would lower the after-tax cost of investment and provide a powerful incentive to help keep the economy growing.”

Engler said President Bush’s clear statement on the importance of trade was well received by manufacturers. “The opposition to free trade agreements in Congress is troublesome,” Engler said. “The facts are clear. Where we have free trade agreements in place, we compete very well. Exports are rising faster than imports today, the strongest sector of our economy. FTAs are the solution, not the problem. Congress should enact the Columbia FTA without delay and move ahead on FTAs with Panama and South Korea.”

President Bush’s suggestions to expand Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), increase the transparency of health care, increase the buying power of small businesses through Association Health Plans, medical liability reform and moving more rapidly to adoption of health care IT also struck a responsible chord with the manufacturers’ group. “The President deserves high marks for this,” Engler said. “In particular, health care costs are high and rising. We can go a long way toward bringing health care costs under control, and at the same time reducing mistakes and improving the quality of health care, through increased reliance on modern digital information technology. We need aggressive leadership in Washington to make this happen. The NAM will work with the administration and Congress to overcome impediments and get our medical establishment away from its reliance on 19th century paper-based recordkeeping and data management.”