Over the hot and steamy summer month of August, I was able to tour the most amazing factory, a Steel mill. Campaign for Ameirca’s Future and the Alliance for American Manufacturing arranged for this amazing tour of the Edgar Thomson mill (Mon Valley Works) US Steel mill.
I walked, coughing and wheezing, my way up what they said were 5 flights of stairs in about 50 lbs of safety gear but what really felt more like 10 stories. For some reason, being in Pittsburgh kicked in allergies I didn’t even know I had.
Walking through the mill reminded me of being a kid. My dad worked at a Steel Mill. I remember a really big bucket that poured this orange liquid into what looked like really big jello molds to me. I was a kid, so, they are kid memories. My dad worked in the Forge shop. He hammered out the pieces that were used in most of the American made convertibles up until about 1980. The company he once worked for still holds the patent even though the company no longer exists. But, I digress.
When I took the tour, I remembered the process, the liquid orange drink that went into the molds. It was a small operation in comparison to US Steel. What was most fascinating to me is how few people are needed now to do the same job performed by about (per the tour) 100 Chinese mill workers. The computers control and sense just about everything. The mill doesn’t pour the liquid orange drink anymore either, they have what looked like a lid on it. The liquid steel turned out the most beautiful looking bars of steel I’d ever seen. They looked so perfect. You could see them cooling from the bright deep orange to auburn to almost a red and then a brick red and gray/black. I could see the rising heat like I were staring at the pavement in summer as the water cooled it, sending steam and heat into the air. It was really more beautiful than anything I can remember seeing before.
I wish there were words for how I felt and what I saw. Amid the sneezes, coughing and sniffles I was thinking about how wonderful it was to see Americans manufacturing. I knew my dad did, but it had been a while since I saw real American manufacturing this close up and with this kind of efficiency. It was really just beautiful.
So, today, I was looking for pictures of the Edgar Thomson mill in Braddock when I got an e-mail from someone I know about a deal at the Container Store. Yeah, I know, it’s a girly thing.
I like the container store. I like organizing my apartment, but that’s because 1000 square feet with 2 bedrooms and a 16 year old needs some intense organizing to function.
I’ve bought from the container store and I knew they carried American made products because I’ve bought them there, but I had no idea that they actually allow you to browse by category for products and one of those categories is Made In The USA.
They have unique items like the Flip Fold and Flip Fold jr. When I worked in retail, we used these to fold shirts uniformly, oh and jeans too. Before these were available, we had to use a cutting board that we folded around. These cut our folding time in half.
I’m planning to buy these nifty power converters for my parents for an upcoming trip to Europe. My mother has never been and if you promise not to tell her, then I’ll share the surprise I’m hoping to give her. Okay, here it is, I’m hoping that when we arive in Barcelona, that we’ll be able to travel to where her father was born in Viitasaari, Finland. My mother has never been and I’d like her to see it at least once. I mean, come on, how can we go all that way and not actually make it to Finland? “Hyvää päivää!” to all my Finnish friends!!
My point here is that Americans make cool stuff. From pretty, hot, and orange planks of steel to the smallest of electrical converters. The way to pull ourselves out of the mess the banks and Wall-street have gotten us into is to re-invest in ourselves. And that means MANUFACTURING.
So, tell me what you made today. I’d love to know and I bet, so would everyone else.