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Tom Brown: Steve, 2018 is winding down with the national economy operating at a high rate. You were recently in Washington and we would like your educated opinion of the redo of NAFTA — specifically, the new trade deals with Canada and Mexico. How will these agreements affect our domestic PVF industry and markets?
Steve Letko: The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) is a big win for domestic manufacturers. It provides stricter country of origin requirements. For example, butt-welded fittings and forged-steel flanges will be required to have a minimum of 70 percent of North American steel content to be stamped with the appropriate country of origin (Mexico, Canada or the United States), thus eligible for USMCA tax treatment.
In addition, the USMCA contains robust procedures for enforcing compliance with the country of origin requirements. These procedures have been adopted to reduce, or eliminate, circumvention by countries outside of the USMCA. Fast-tracking is allowed for enforcement issues that have been found to be in noncompliance with the country of origin provisions. The enforcement of the appropriate penalties against the violating entities will be transparent and expedited to have the intent of the USMCA sustained.
These provisions were not enforceable under NAFTA due to the complexity of the determination of compliance issues, along with the complexity of procedures for enforcement. Filing of complaints regarding compliance and enforcement under NAFTA were expensive and were almost impossible to resolve. Thus, circumvention was not deterred.
TMB: It was great being with you in Houston for the fall PVF Roundtable meeting. Mike Rowe was fantastic and his message was right on point.
SL: The October meeting of the PVF Roundtable was an outstanding success with a sellout attendance. Mike Rowe’s appearance drew an enormous response that exceeded the capacity of the Norris Center facility.
Mike’s presentation was entertaining and right on point, as you mentioned. The mikeroweWORKS Foundation enlightens young people to the lucrative opportunities that learning a trade provides to those who pursue it. The foundation also provides scholarships for those in need of financial assistance.
Mike pointed out that not everyone is college material due to personal preference, financial circumstances or interest. He emphasized the prospects young people have to make a rewarding living by pursuing a career in the skilled trades. For example, a qualified welder could make a six-figure wage easily in today’s market. With a 3.7 percent unemployment rate, we have more jobs vacancies than available workers.
Our industry, in particular, is in desperate need of skilled works such as pipefitters, journeyman welders, crane operators, quality control technicians, job foreman and truck drivers.
The PVF Roundtable Charitable Foundation runs parallel to Mike’s foundation as we have the same business philosophy. During his time in the Green Room, I had an opportunity to discuss in depth the mission statements of both funds. They are similar and have the same objectives of recruiting young talent to the trades.
Mike’s theory on how to expand interest in the skilled trades is through exposure to the public through the media. He has offered his advice and help in achieving the growth through recognition and promotion of the PVF Roundtable Charitable Foundation.
I believe I speak for the entire board in expressing thanks and appreciation to Mike Rowe for addressing our dinner meeting and his support of our mission.
TMB: Jim Coulas Jr. has become a big PVF industry advocate. Weldbend’s sponsorship of the evening was fantastic and memorable.
SL: Mr. Coulas is indeed an industry advocate as evidenced by the announcement by Mike Rowe during the meeting of the huge investment he has made in developing a revolutionary method of forging tees. The new equipment weighs over 1 million lb. and is currently being installed in the Weldbend facility in Argo, Ill. This equipment is scheduled to be in production the first part of 2019.
Weldbend’s sponsorship of the October meeting is unprecedented in PVF Roundtable history and has proven to be the most successful event held to date. Every detail was well organized and executed flawlessly, while the food and drink were first-class.
Thank-you, Jim Coulas, from everyone in attendance as well as the board of directors.
TMB: You attended a Roundtable’s board meeting. Please share with us any significant plans and events for the future.
SL: It was announced during our BOD meeting that the Trout Blast raised more than $90,000 for the scholarship fund. What a fabulous achievement for all who made it such a successful event!
The success of this event is due to the volunteers who poured blood, sweat and tears into the organization, promotion and implementation of the event. We are indeed in debt to the volunteers who made this possible.
Sara Alford, Sheryl Ryan Michalak, Bob Hunter, Bryan DeLong and Kim Shelton Brown are just a few of the many volunteers who deserve recognition for their hard work and devotion to The PVF Roundtable.
The PVF Roundtable is an all-volunteer organization. There are no salaried employees. All the proceeds generated through the meetings and sponsored events are for scholarships issued through The PVF Charitable Foundation, a 501-3C corporation.
Also, due to the limitations of capacity encountered at the Norris Center, the board has decided to hold a special networking meeting Dec.11 at The Bell Tower on 34th in Houston.
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