Hometown Heroes: Trade Specialists Shine Community Spotlight on Crafting

Lisa Wang is Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Enforcement and Compliance

October is National Manufacturing Month, and communities across the country celebrate the significant contributions of America’s most enduring and rapidly evolving field. Every aspect of our lives and livelihoods is affected by the people and places that produce our goods.

At the International Trade Administration (ITA), we help American manufacturers thrive in global commerce and ensure a level playing field at home and abroad. ITA’s Enforcement and Compliance (E&C) team enforces U.S. anti-dumping and countervailing laws to protect our industries from unfair pricing and practices by non-compliant foreign players.

Over the past few months, I’ve had the opportunity to see our business laws in action at manufacturing sites stretching from Appalachia to Alabama as part of a series we’ve called “Hometown Tours.” On each tour, we visit a city considered home by one of our trade specialists and an American company touched by our work.

Photo collage of ITA trade specialists: Jayden Graham-White (top left), Kathryn Krishnan (top left), Norbert Gannon (bottom right), Tom Conley (bottom left – standing above of the AMI panel) and Zachary Le Vene (in the middle).

Our first stop at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvaniacan be credited with Norbert Ganon. Gannon, who grew up near US Steel’s Edgar Thomson plant, saw the evolution of the integrated steel mill throughout his life and marveled at its longevity. Built in the 1870s, it outlived all the other steelworks subsequently built in the “Valley of Mon”. Gannon had always wanted to visit the mill but had never set foot there. After a career spent learning and developing policy involving U.S. steelmakers – nearly 50% of E&C cases deal with some form of foreign steel product under unfair trade – Norb was finally able to visit the ironworks in his neighborhood.

  • Having finally seen the installation, Gannon said: “I can now check this off my to-do list!”

Then, in Portland, Maine, Tom Conley introduced Auburn Manufacturing Inc. (AMI), a female-run factory that produces high-performance textiles that provide protection against extreme temperatures. AMI and nearby Sappi North America, a lumber yard and paper mill, are companies that in recent years have been hit by unfair trade practices from China and other countries. Through the enforcement of our laws, the ITA has helped these businesses stay competitive in the international marketplace while supporting hundreds of local jobs.

  • Conley said, “These two companies alone show that Maine is more than just ‘vacation land’ and seafood, although we do have great seafood. It was fantastic to see firsthand the huge impact ITA has had on the companies I grew up with.

In Lexington, Kentucky, Catherine Krishan provided a perfect example of a resilient American supply chain with a visit to Leggett & Platt, where 100% of the components that go into the spring unit, including the wire that makes the spring coils, are manufactured by Leggett & Platt. Through vertical integration and the strategic application of US trade laws, Leggett & Platt maintains a global business that has employed generations of Kentuckians.

  • Krishnan said, “My job in DC and my hometown in Kentucky have always been very separate. It wasn’t until I heard someone who looked like my Papaw explain how important our job at ITA was to him. and his family that I have been able to bridge that gap. I hope my colleagues have been able to see the vibrant and proud communities that make what we do worthwhile.

In Alabama, Jayden Graham-White arranged a visit to Globe Specialty Metals. Following a successful commercial application, Globe recently reopened its Selma-based plant to continue a proud heritage of silicon metal production that supports sectors ranging from cosmetics to energy and semiconductors. What made this visit more special was visiting nearby campuses of some distinguished historically black colleges and universities and predominantly black institutions – Alabama State University, Auburn University at Montgomery and, of course, the alma mater by Graham-White, Tuskegee University.

  • Graham-White said, “It was an honor to be able to see firsthand the work these people do every day to keep these factories, these cities and ultimately this country running. Returning to Alabama to serve the communities that raised me and to encourage and support various students to follow suit has been an incredible experience that truly brings meaning to the title of public servant.

And more recently, Wisconsin-native, Zachary Le Vene highlighted the local and global impacts of trade remedies during a visit to Renewable Energy Group (REG), a producer of sustainable biofuels. After E&C implemented duties to counter unfairly subsidized and priced biodiesel from Argentina and Indonesia, REG was able to invest in its refining capacity at facilities like the one E&C visited at Deforest, in Wisconsin.

  • Ven said, “It was encouraging to see REG’s commitment to improving the local community on many levels, including the farmers and restaurants that supply the company with ‘waste’ products as a raw material. REG’s innovative yet practical process of using renewable raw materials and existing infrastructure is inspiring to see in my home country. Although Wisconsin is often known for its beer and cheese, companies like REG are putting it on the map as a center for sustainable and innovative manufacturing.

The ITA Enforcement and Compliance team is here to support businesses that need our help. If you face unfair competition from unfairly priced imports, we offer free and confidential consultation services. Plus, if your US business faces export barriers, we’re available to help. Contact us.

It’s not every day that those of us working behind the scenes get to see how the work we do supports American workers and communities. I am grateful to these people for taking us out to meet people and see where our work resonates the most.

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