Wednesday, July 27th, 2011

Seeing is Believing: Invite Your Representatives on a Plant Tour!

I’m ashamed to admit it, but for five years in the early 90s, I was a manufacturing lobbyist who had never stepped foot inside of a manufacturing plant.  I was 25 years old, lobbying tax and budget issues and I thought I was pretty sharp.  To make matters worse, in many instances I was lobbying members of Congress and Hill staffers who had also never been inside a plant … talk about the blind leading the blind.

 It wasn’t until years later when I had my first of many plant tours,  that I realized how little I really knew about the people and the processes that I was representing and the disservice that I was doing to my association’s members.  The unfortunate truth is that too many members of Congress and agency staff that are responsible for regulations and legislation affecting our companies, are guilty of this same ignorance.  Sure, they’re smart people, they read newspapers and many have been to law school.  Like I did, they probably think they know everything they need to know about manufacturing.  But, they don’t.

Last week, I visited two Berry Plastics facilities – in Baltimore (pictured in the photo above) and Hanover, Md. — and was reminded of how important it is to show, and not just tell, our elected representatives about what we do and how we do it.   I had forgotten about the impressive and innovative technologies that allow companies like Berry to stay competitive.  High tech manufacturing isn’t just in Palo Alto anymore — it is the norm in American manufacturing.  I saw, firsthand, the importance that this company places on employee safety and investments that they have made in recycling scrap –not just to be green, but to reclaim a valuable resource.  Finally, I witnessed the tremendous pride of the Berry employees in their plant and the products they produce.  In the coming months, Berry’s Hanover plant will be making $30 million worth of investments in equipment, hiring several dozen new employees and ensuring steady and satisfying work for the 145 employees who already work there.

Can you imagine making an important business decision without understanding all of the implications?  Members of Congress will be in their home districts in August and for several weeks in the fall.  Let’s make an effort to bring them into our plants and show them our pride.  Seeing is believing.  Check out this photo – and this one and one more – of  elected representatives who have recently visited the plants of SPI member companies

Be a Plastics Champion and “Take Action for Plastics” by hosting an elected official on a plant tour of your company’s facility. SPI can help make the arrangements and provide you with solid “how-to” information.  Get started — for more information on  SPI grassroots programs, email grassroots@plasticsindustry.org.

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