President Barack Obama's visit to Alcoa's Davenport, Iowa, plant Tuesday was a great way to showcase American manufacturing and "what a great team can do," Chief Executive Klaus Kleinfeld told CNBC.
But the U.S. needs to do more to help manufacturers, including tax credits for research and development, programs that encourage worker education and a loosening of immigration requirements so foreign workers can remain in this country.
"You have to emphasize the technology side and the innovation side," Kleinfeld said. "You have to have a close relationship with customers and it has to be worldwide."
From Davenport, "25 percent of the materials we make get directly exported," but 75 percent of the materials that Alcoa sells to U.S. companies also end up outside the country.
He sees a mixed U.S. recovery. He's bullish in aeronautics where Alcoa won a $1 billion contract with Airbus at the recent Paris Air Show, more mixed in automotive where there is "slower growth but still growth," but he sees no growth in building and construction.
Kleinfeld said Alcoa had 13 percent growth in aluminum last year on increasing worldwide demand. That growth will continue, he said, with 12 percent growth this year and a doubling of demand by 2020.
"There’s a lot going on there," Kleinfeld said. "I believe we will see prices at a decent level."