On March 21, 2014, The Washington Post wrote, “The manufacturing industry continues to be frequently and unfairly portrayed as low-paying and low-skilled and affording little in the way of career growth. The reality is that manufacturing today is a high-tech industry that offers better than average wages than many other employment sectors, with new hires in manufacturing continuing to earn an average of 38 percent more than their counterparts in non-manufacturing jobs. As one of the leading contributors to U.S. gross domestic product, manufacturing is invaluable to economic growth and was the leader in pulling us out of the Great Recession of 2009.
“At present, U.S. manufacturing is facing a shortage of skilled workers as its post-recession overhaul necessitated better global competitiveness and more automation in production facilities. The simple assembly line job is a thing of the past, and today’s manufacturing work requires critical thinking and computer skills.”
It was the river and the abundance of flat land that brought Frederick and William Niedringhaus to this area to establish our first manufacturing company in 1894. This first company, NESCO, soon became the world’s largest producer of household and kitchen utensils, employing 1,200 men. But the company required more and more steel, leading to the establishment of Granite City Steel in 1895.
At precisely the same time, American Steel Foundry was established, and by 1908 was employing 2,000 men. It became the nation’s largest producer of cast steel railroad freight car side frames and bolsters.
Today, both of these companies are still a vital part of our community, providing good, family-supporting wages to thousands of men and women from all over the area. Their names have changed, but you would have to be living under a rock not to know of U.S. Steel Granite City Works and Amsted Rail.
We do so much more here than just produce the steel. We have dozens of steel processors that coat, blank, slit, temper, descale, pickle, edge and our manufacturers can meet any other special needs a customer may request. The steel manufacturers in this area operate in the highly competitive global marketplace.
Suncoke Energy is one of the companies that works directly with U.S. Steel; it is recognized as the largest independent producer of high-quality metallurgical coke in the Americas and is internationally recognized as a leading provider of heat recovery coke making technology that meets or exceeds applicable environmental standards and that produces some of the highest coke quality in the market.
Because of our great history and what the steel industry has brought to this area, we will always proudly claim the title of “steel town” (and, of course, the newer one-an “industrial community”). Our manufacturing/industrial history has only continued to grow with numerous other major manufacturing companies making this their home.
Included in that list are companies such as Abengoa, Air Products, Arizon Structures, Baily International, Custom Steel Processing, Ehrhardt Precision Products, Hiedtman Steel, Gateway Packaging, Kraft Foods, Lapham-Hickey Steel, Magnesium Elektron North America, Midwest Metal Coatings, Prairie Farms Dairy, PreCoat Metals and the John Sakach Company.
I don’t think many people realize the huge array of companies based in our community, how many different products are produced right here, or how many touch the daily lives of people not only in this area, but in every state in our nation and in hundreds of countries throughout the world.
We produce material that is used to support the combat soldiers and to protect flyers and aircraft, an alloy for fuel-efficient designs that significantly reduces carbon emissions, and unique materials used in a variety of other industries ranging from graphic arts to computer frames to oil exploration. We have a highly efficient coating system for both steel and aluminum and we build air, frame and tension buildings that are shipped throughout the world.
We are a leader in the development of new technologies for the production of biofuels and chemical bioproducts and the sustainability of raw materials. We are an industrial and maritime leader in wire roping, rigging and slings. We are a worldwide supplier of industrial gases and equipment specialty, intermediate chemicals, and environmental and energy systems. We are a packaging solutions company with the cutting-edge capabilities within the flexible package industry. We are a national leader in producing eggrolls, wonton wrappers, fresh and dried noodles and fortune cookies. We make the pouched ready-to-drink beverages (that I have difficulty opening, but my 4-year-old neighbor can open in a second). We produce milk, ice cream, iced tea, iced coffee and the eggnog you serve at Christmas.
These companies mentioned are each good corporate residents to this area. Many have made new investments of $20 to $60 million in their companies over the past few years. Our business community is made up of a huge list of manufacturers that provide a tax base that any community would give their eye teeth for. These are corporations and companies whose leadership have become part of our community; they participate in local civic and social organizations, they serve as mentors, they have positions on boards and committees, and they have written and implemented the fourth Leadership Programs in Madison County.
Each of these companies has chosen to be based here and bring a distinctive element, making us who and what we are … a very unique industrial community. It is easy to become accustomed to what you have, to stop appreciating who you are. We need to be proud of the multitude of items that we produce here, the thousands of people that use the products we produce, and the hundreds of countries throughout the world that rely on what we make every day in this community.
I hope you are as proud as I am of this area! If you are, become involved through Warrior Pride, Community Pride, Neighborhood Associations, The Foundry, your church or your schools. Find a way to appreciate and show your pride in who and what we are.
This is your community. Be PROUD!