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Finding Our Footing


It’s that time of year again when I find my "editorial inspiration file" is brimming with items that may become lost forever among the clutter of the cutting room floor. Among them are insightful readers’ responses to various editorials or articles written over the course of the year that otherwise might lose their impact if not used soon. So it’s time to share these gems as the year comes to a close. Perhaps you’ll recall what inspired these readers to write in the first place.

Starting with April ("Left Behind?"), I tackled the subject of the loss of converter jobs to Asian economies. I predicted it would become a hot topic of discussion as our presidential elections heated up. There certainly was debate on the subject, but we’re still awaiting the discovery of the appropriate panacea to cure this malady.

In my May editorial ("Wal-Mart: Friend or Foe?"), I went a step further and asked whether retail giant Wal-Mart was friend or foe. It was the subject of two more editorials in July ("Wal-Mart Revisited") and August ("The Great Debate") when I shared the opinions of some readers both in defense of and against the corporation’s business tactics involving its converter suppliers. I reported on an isolationist business approach, as some have described, that promoted "Made in America" products, and then I asked readers to contact me with firsthand knowledge of jobs lost to China that formerly had been manufactured in the US.

Interestingly enough—perhaps it was only coincidence&8212;no one contacted me with any personal experiences. However, the following reader put the matter in perspective:

I believe a lot of equipment is now being made in China and other countries in the East. For machine manufacturing, how many are still made in the USA? Of all the manufacturers we compete with, none are made in the USA.

A recent article I read dealt with converters complaining about work going overseas. I thought, how hypocritical! When given a choice of USA-made or Chinese-made, many purchase Chinese based on cost. But now that what they produce on our presses is moving overseas as well, they want a "buy American" program in place.

Not only is equipment being made overseas, but equipment is being copied and then brought to our markets.

Manufacturing in the USA is in serious trouble. Our current legal system makes for an even greater disadvantage. Sadly, no one seems to care until it hits them, and then they are but one fading voice in a losing battle.—Hank Brandtjen, president, Brandtjen & Kluge

Still would love to hear from any converters with personal experiences of jobs lost to China. It’s not something I imagined, is it?

On an entirely different subject, one reader shared with me his father’s early experiences in the coating industry that merit repeating after we spoke of an article that would appear in the November issue on the100th anniversary of Mayer rod coating ("The Great Equalizer"):

When I was in college I did a research paper at the 42nd St. library in NYC and found references to wire- wound rods in Germany in the 1880s. Because of that, I’ve always referred to Charles Mayer as the person who popularized rod coating. He had a foundry in Rochester and made coating machines for waxing and carbon paper. Carbon paper was tissue paper with a hot coating of wax and ink that previously was smoothed out with brushes. The rod did this very uniformly and the coating was quickly solidified with a chill roll. … My father worked for Mayer as a night watchman, rod winder, janitor, etc. After Mayer got into antitrust trouble because he required machine customers to buy rods from him, my father started making rods in the attic of a house he rented. He had left Mayer by this time and was working at General Motors. There is a story my parents told of their celebrating with Hostess Twinkies when they received a $15 order from Riegel Paper Co. That was when $5 was an average weekly paycheck.—Doug Krasucki, president, R.D. Specialties.

Can’t help drawing a comparison between US manufacturing then and China now. Certainly it won’t require 100 years to find its footing to leap forward with today’s technology.

On a final note this year, the PFFC staff wishes a fond farewell and good luck to senior editor Teresa Koltzenburg, who has moved on to a chief editor’s position with the American Library Assn. At the same time, we welcome Carrie Cleaveland, who will lend her hand as PFFC’s new assistant editor.

To read more editorials by Yolanda Simonsis, visit our Editorial Archives.

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