Rescue Of Chilean Miners: Made In The USA

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An executive of the Pennsylvania company that manufactured the drilling equipment used to rescue 33 trapped Chilean miners earlier this month gave an impassioned defense of American manufacturing Monday night to wrap up the day’s activities at the International District Export Council Conference.

Speaking after dinner at Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Fred Slack, vice president of business development at West Chester, Pa.-based Schramm Inc. said America must keep a vital, competitive manufacturing base.

Slack said Schramm dates back to 1917 and suburban Philadelphia now surrounds the company. Dick Schramm, now in his 70s, still comes in every day, and continues the philosophy started by his father Harold in 1965 that “the main goal of the company was not to make a profit but to do good for the employees, their families and the local economy.”

Slack said that at Scrhamm, “everybody from the janitor to the CEO” feels a sense of ownership of the miners’ rescue, “and we will have that for the rest of our lives.”

“We can talk about U.S. manufacturing in relative percentages, 30 to 35 percent of the economy when I was young, today 10 to 15 percent, significantly less than it used to be, but we have been able to achieve 85 percent exports in 80 countries and believe it or not 40 Schramm rigs in Chile before this incident, thanks to American technology and an American work ethic of doing things right so that the equipment operates in even the worst conditions,” Slack said.

Slack noted that Schramm’s equipment was “Plan B” competing with Plans A and C to rescue the miners — and won, thanks to the company’s technological edge.

And that edge comes from as many American suppliers as possible, Slack said.

“We absolutely buy American,” he said. “We buy International trucks and Cummins engines. We buy 75 to 80 percent from USA sources, including steel. We’d like to buy more, but for example we can’t buy the chain we use in these underground systems because they don’t make it here any more, so we have to buy it in Korea. But U.S. manufacturing is alive and well and we help contribute to that.”

Schramm said the second important theme the company is taking from the event is “the world reaction to all of this. Based on this particular event our Web site was absolutely inundated with messages, so much so that we had to replace our server about a week and a half ago with something bigger. We were getting 9 to 10,000 hits a day, and over a two-week period we received messages from 173 countries. The message 90 percent of the time was thank you America for your technology and thank God for this outcome. One thing I got out of this was that in an era of secular press, faith in God really makes a difference.”

Slack also praised Chile’s social and economic policies and said he hoped they “rub off across the region.”

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