By Bob Belcher
Corsicana Daily Sun
Washington, D.C. —
One of Corsicana’s oldest and largest industries was represented in Washington, D.C. Thursday.
Eric Ryan Meyers Jr., president of Oil City Iron Works, was invited to speak to the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee during a hearing on manufacturing in America.
Meyers was on a panel that represented a broad range of the manufacturing industry. U.S. Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) invited Meyers to take part in the hearing, which was streamed live on the Internet via ustream.com.
In his five-minute presentation to the committee, Meyers pointed to a number of areas he believed American industry could be helped by governmental action, including the need for competitive tax policies, a regulatory system that doesn’t impede growth and competitiveness, and the need for investment in the nation’s infrastructure.
Meyers told congressmen the recent recession hit his company and the industry hard, and Oil City had to lay off 80 employees, most of which have been re-hired. He said the company is looking forward to expanding its present operation, but is reluctant to add new jobs given his concerns over health care costs. He also said potential new federal regulations and growing tax bills could adversely affect Oil City Iron Works.
Meyers also responded to a question posed by Barton on how the cost of natural gas has impacted his company.
“In a tangible way, natural gas prices to affect our operations because of the energy costs,” he said. “We’ve seen energy costs maintain a pretty stable level the last year and a half, but some forecasts are now starting to trend up, so that will be an issue as we move through this year and into next year.”
Meyers also told the committee one of the challenges facing the foundry industry and Oil City in particular was the lack of skilled labor to fill openings within the industry. He said Oil City has been pro-active in reaching out to technical schools and Navarro College to develop training programs to funnel skilled workers into the workforce.
“I do believe that the private sector is pushing technical training,” Meyers said. “That’s very obvious when you look at our sector ... it’s just not something that’s pushed at the local level or in public schools. We were pro-active in approaching our local college to look at technical training programs.”
He said foundries in other parts of the country are doing the same thing in an attempt to find and develop skilled workers.
Meyers also said the foundry industry also strongly supports the building of the Keystone XL Pipeline and urged the U.S. Department of State to approve the presidential permit necessary for the project to move forward.
In response to a panel question about the impact regulation has along the “supply chain” of American industry, Meyers praised what he called the “pro-business” climate in Texas.
“Our agencies in Texas work with businesses,” he said. “They’re not coming down against us, they work with us to help maintain goals and achievements that we need to look at as far an environmental and safety.
“I think when you talk about overlapping regulations, it’s more of a regulatory-friendly issue in helping our manufacturers, not constantly bombarding us with regulations and issues that we simply can’t do.”
Also appearing before the house committee was Ron Saxton, executive vice-president of JELD-WEN, the window manufacturing company that closed its Corsicana operation in 2009.
Saxton, who made no mention of job losses or factory closings in his business, told the committee the past six years have been difficult for everyone in the housing industry, including builders, suppliers and consumers. He said JELD-WEN worked hard to maintain its workforce, but it has been a struggle with the steep decline in housing starts.
Saxton said the industry is concerned about changes being considered by the EPA in the criteria for the ENERGY STAR program “to a point where there is no realistic cost-effectiveness for consumers” and feels the program will become “irrelevant at best.”
“It was an honor to have this opportunity to showcase Oil City Iron Works to Congress and the rest of the country,” said Meyers after his testimony. “I am very proud of what we produce and the people who produce it. Our employees are as skilled as they are dedicated and it shows in every casting or product we make.”
“Foundries, like Oil City Iron Works, are where it all gets started,” said Barton. “They make the parts that help other companies make products.
“It is also an example of another bedrock of America — a family run business. The Meyers’ have run it for three generations spanning more than 50 years. They have gown the business using hard work and innovation. I want to make sure that bureaucratic red tape doesn’t get in their way. This hearing was all about making sure Washington supports manufacturing instead of slowing it down.”
Bob Belcher may be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Want to “Soundoff” on this story? Email: email@example.com