When I selected the domain – KeepUSABusy.com – my first thought was to write about the plight of manufacturing in America.
As is clearly the case for many others as well, I found the loss of so many of the nation’s manufacturing jobs troubling. Could this trend be turned around? Or will overseas manufacturing be a permanent part of life in America?
Where can young people growing up in small towns, and those who don’t go to college, find satisfactory employment? What about the older workers with families who have lost their jobs because of the weak U.S. economy of the past several years?
We need manufacturing. I speak from experience. I first worked in a manufacturing job at Whitehall Pharmaceutical Company in Elkhart, Indiana at the age of 16, while I was still in high school. It provided more than an opportunity to pay for the gasoline for my used 1937 Plymouth. At Whitehall I learned about working on an assembly line. It opened the door for me when I needed a job later on while working my way through college. I had experience that I could put on my resume. Future employers would know I knew how to hold a job.
Since then more child labor laws have been passed. At least some parents have spoiled their youngsters by giving them far too much. Some also tolerate tantrums when their youngsters make unreasonable demands. But I am biased.
I was a child of the Great Depression and World War II. My father was a public school teacher who made less in a year than some of today’s teachers make in a week or two. I remember asking my Dad for a dime to buy a kite when I was nine or ten and he honestly answered he didn’t have a dime. That’s poverty.
For spending money as a child I went door-to-door selling hot pads my grandmother crocheted, as well as African violets she started by rooting their leaves in damp sand. My grandmother was a college graduate with a nursing degree. My grandfather was a doctor who died in the epidemic of 1918.
I received a first rate education at Elkhart Central High School. In the summer I worked at the A&W Root Beer stand, down by the St. Joe river. I also began delivering newspapers when I was seven, first in Moline, Illinois and then following World War II, after my father returned from fighting the Japanese in the South Pacific, in Elkhart.
The world has changed dramatically since then.
Researchers have suggested today’s typical college freshman reads at the 7th grade level. Are you kidding? I am skeptical of that “fact” and many other things today’s college professors report. But if true, I find it shocking. Are our public schools really that bad? After my dad died when he was 49 my mother taught first grade. All her first grade pupils could read at the fourth grade level by the end of the year.
Has holding a cell phone to one’s ear scrambled todays children’s brains? Have computer games eliminated reading for pleasure? Or has the federal government and the teacher’s unions severely damaged what once was a great educational system?
While thinking about this tour of America – hardly our first – I decided that as my wife, Judy, and I rolled down the highways and back roads of America in our small motorhome we would be on the lookout for “made in the USA” stories to share with you.
Boulder, Colorado is on our list. It is said to be a hotbed of start-up companies. The answer appears to be finding a reason for creative people to settle in a community where the environment helps entrepreneurs to flourish.
What could we learn from those who were still able to make things in America? Could we uncover more secrets that others should consider and emulate? Is cash available for start-ups? Can existing companies find ways to expand into new fields?
When we return to New England in the spring we plan to stop in Burnham, Maine, not far off Interstate 95. Traditional wooden Lincoln Logs, once made in Asia, are now being made at Pride Manufacturing Company. Pride is the world’s largest manufacturer of golf tees. Yet Burnham had a population of just 1,164 in 2010, the last official census. So the key isn’t city status.
In Norway, Maine, a town of 5,000 where I have lived for roughly 40 years, New Balance continues to successfully manufacture sneakers and tennis shoes. It is now the backbone of industry in the community, along with Grover Gundrilling.
Since Pride Manufacturing Company, New Balance and Grover Gundrilling can succeed in rural Maine there still is hope for the rest of America. We hope to tell you about it in the weeks ahead.
KENNEDY, ALABAMA – Brown Company! They soak long pine logs in something to make them last as power poles
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