Remarks of Franklin L. Lavin
Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade
Union Metal 100th Anniversary, Canton, Ohio
Tuesday, August 15, 2006
It is nice to be back home in Canton. I’m sorry I just missed Hall of Fame Weekend.
It is also a pleasure to be here with you, with Mayor (Janet) Creighton, Senator (Kirk) Schuring, Bill Burga (Ohio AFL-CIO) and the other dignitaries gathered here today. But most importantly, it is great to be here with Darryl Dillenback (President and CEO) and all of the employees, retirees, their families and Canton community members that have come out to celebrate an important milestone, the centennial of this terrific company, Union Metal.
Celebrating Union Metal’s Achievements
I am delighted to be here to celebrate a century of Union Metal’s leadership in the design and construction of great products that brighten the lives of millions of Americans every day and every night.
On behalf of the President and the Department of Commerce, it is my honor to congratulate you for a century of outstanding achievements.
Union Metal’s birth 100 years ago here in Canton is part of a rich tradition of innovation, industriousness and entrepreneurship.
This region long has helped make American enterprise the envy of the world. We see this tradition most dramatically in the lighting industry. From Thomas Edison to Charles Brush to Union Metal’s Christopher Columbus Barrick, Northern Ohio has helped illuminate the world.
You have transformed the way Americans work, play and travel each and every day.
From modest beginnings, Union Metal has constantly reinvented itself to meet the changing needs of customers. From the first monopole in the 1920’s, to meeting the demands of a growing interstate system over the last 50 years, to the long mast arms now widely used for traffic lights and overhead signs, Union Metal’s innovations have improved the American way of life.
There have been a lot of changes over these one hundred years, yet what hasn’t changed is a tradition of custom craftsmanship, precision engineering and a commitment to quality unsurpassed in the lighting industry.
Today Union Metal makes posts, masts, poles, standards and traffic control devices that are the finest in the world. They give off a light that is diffuse and bright, illuminating ribbons of highway,
parks and streetscapes all across America. In fact, one out of every five miles in the federal highway system is lit by Union Metal.
And even with that success, your product line has expanded to meet the changing demands of customers. Today you offer thousands of different, highly engineered outdoor lighting styles along with specialized, applications such as cell towers, stadium lighting, flagpoles and
total lighting solutions.
Union Metal’s legacy is all around us. It is in the thousands of miles of well-lit roads, the hundreds of community parks and landscapes, as well as the uncountable thousands of sturdy lights poles that have been keeping people safe every night, without fail for decades. It is in
the workplaces and shopping malls of America where night is turned into day at any hour, at any time. Your legacy is in supporting the signs and the traffic lights that keep people on the right path and get them where they want to go, everyday without interruption, safely and securely.
This is a legacy to be proud of.
Union Metal’s Success is Due to Hard Work and a Great Economic Environment
More than anything, Union Metal’s success can be attributed to the more than 400 people here who assemble, design and improve your products, delivering them to customers everyday as promised. The metal formers, engineers, welders, electricians and all of the people that support them make this possible. It is you who helped build Union Metal. It is you who build America.
Union Metal does more than provide employment for 400 people. Behind each employee working here there is a family. Let me take a minute to salute the family members who provide the support at home every worker needs. So to the wives, and husbands and sons and daughters and other loved ones who have been part of this Union Metal family over the years, let me say “thank you” and honor you for your support.
This company and its leadership have contributed much to Canton. You have made it possible for thousands of children and employees to go to college through your internship and tuition reimbursement programs, and you have contributed to Canton’s future through organizations like United Way.
Union Metal has made some tough calls over the years - to enter new markets, to invest in new technology and to pursue new lines of business. That’s what companies have to do to ensure future growth. For our part, I can tell you that the Bush Administration is also committed to doing everything we can to keep our economy moving ahead and make sure that companies like Union Metal have a tail wind and not a head wind.
Well we have a good tail wind today. In fact, America’s economy has grown at four percent this year, more than any large industrialized economy in the world. American productivity growth is the highest in nearly four decades, and 5.5 million new jobs were created in the last three years.
Union Metal has been part of this success. Employment is up by more than 25 percent at Union Metal since 2004. Pretty darn impressive. But there are two questions for all of us: what steps do we have to take to see Union Metal grow by another 25% over the next two years? And what steps do we have to take to see more companies, more Union Metals, start up here in Canton?
These questions are a bit outside of today’s events. But as a starting point, the Bush Administration is determined to keep the nation on a pro-growth path. This means keeping taxes low, watching federal spending, and passing an R& D tax credit so companies can innovate and stay competitive.
We want a healthy business environment that will allow this growth to continue. And we want additional companies to start up. We need to make the right policy choices today so that Union Metal can continue to grow and prosper.
Union Metal represents the best of America. You work hard and smart, innovating and changing with the times. For a century you have brightened dark corners all around the nation and made our streetscapes better and safer places for all. From the Vice President’s residence in Washington to downtown Canton…from illuminating the Super Bowl and the Olympics in Atlanta, you are everywhere under the sun that radiates light.
It is a pleasure it is to be back here to help you celebrate your achievements over the past 100 years.