A top official of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation lambasted the federal government for discounting the importance of manufacturing and called for the creation of a sub-Cabinet level officer to protect the interests of manufacturing companies, The Detroit News reported.

“Manufacturing has lost 2.5 million jobs in the last two-and-a half years and it’s a crisis here in the United States that has to be addressed,” said MEDC vice president Jim Donaldson on Monday, during an opening session at the Management Briefing Seminars, a major annual automotive industry conference covered by the newspaper.

Donaldson reportedly called on the US Department of Commerce to create the office of undersecretary of manufacturing to look after the interests of manufacturing, including retraining the current workforce.

The Detroit News said Michigan is one of the top five manufacturing states in the US by employment, according to the Michigan Manufacturers Association, and the sector employs more than 900,000 people in the state, representing nearly a fifth of Michigan’s total workforce. A typical manufacturing job pays more than $800 a week, plus benefits, according to state data cited by the newspaper. “People in Washington D.C. are equating manufacturing with agriculture at the turn of the century,” Donaldson said, according to the Detroit News. “They’re saying if it goes away we’ll still be a strong, healthy country.”

“There just needs to be more attention paid in [Washington] DC as to how vital manufacturing is,” Donaldson reportedly added.