The Table Maker


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I recently participated in a meeting of peers and educators. Following the initial presentation, the conversation turned to the general state of the industry and economy. Business conditions are truly horrible and most of the shops represented had employees laid off. The educators in the room bemoaned the difficulty in attracting students that want to pursue skilled trades because manufacturing has a bad name and they don’t see a future in it. The grumbling continued until one in our group told a story.

Dick Overton of the U.S Dept. of Labor shared with us a story his grandfather had told him titled, “The Table Maker”. It was his grandfather’s response to the new economy he had heard about, the service economy. “Never work!” his grandfather stated. The problem with it? “Everyone has forgotten about the guy building tables in his barn.” It goes like this:

One day two men were lost on a country road when they came upon a farm. No one answered the door at the house, but they heard noise coming from the barn, so they headed there. Inside was a man working in his woodshop. The men asked for directions and were ready to go on their way when they noticed that the man was building a beautiful table. The next day one of the men came back and purchased the table and took it to town where he showed it to his friends. They all agreed it was a magnificent table, so they also went to the farm and purchased tables. Soon everyone in town wanted these tables, so the man needed to expand his operation, hire people and invest in new equipment so he could make more tables. Eventually, there was a need for a grocery store, banks, restaurants, schools, roads and homes. Many other businesses thrived providing services for the employees of the table maker.

The moral of the story: We have cut the legs out from under the table maker. Our economy is failing because we don’t make things anymore. The new economy does not work. We have to stop exporting our manufacturing to low-cost countries and get back to the business of making tables and employing skilled people so this economy can truly flourish again. For that is the foundation of prosperity.

Use your voice. Let your elected officials know that we must insist our trading partners abide by WTO rules. They must be forced to stop manipulating their currency and providing illegal subsidies to give their manufacturers an unfair advantage. You can find your elected officials at www.congress.org.

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