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Taking Control

By Greg Kozera - | Jun 16, 2021

A few weeks ago, Lynnda and I were in Orlando airport with our granddaughter and her roommate checking our bags. Suddenly there was commotion in front of us. A family group traveling together had surrounded a man. They accused him of taking a photo of a teenage girl in their family. The man denied it but the family was having none of it. They forced him to show them the photos on his phone, where they found the girl’s photo and forced him to delete it. As airport security approached the man ran away. We don’t know if they caught up with him. What we witnessed was a potential human trafficking situation thwarted by the family paying attention to their surroundings and acting. Human trafficking is real. We can all help by being observant.

This was a big week for Shale Crescent USA. We spoke at the virtual Select USA international conference put on by the U.S. Commerce Department. Our Market Entry panel was right after the opening general session. We made several good contacts with foreign companies who could come to our region. In our presentation we discussed the importance of local and regional supply chains to have dependable and economic suppliers. During the pandemic we saw what happened when our global supply chains failed. We couldn’t get ventilators, masks, gloves, gowns and other healthcare PPE. Some companies had to shut down because a few of their assembly line items were sourced overseas.

Lack of a single item can shut down an assembly line.

It was gratifying to hear our ideas about local and regional supply chains discussed by a panel led by U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo on Thursday. They recognized it was more economical and better for the environment to have products made close to where they are consumed. Shale Crescent USA is working on a soon to be released study showing how we can successfully compete with China in manufacturing. Manufacturing in the USA, in addition to jobs, can create more affordable dependable products. Instead of just complaining about increasing Chinese emissions we can do something about them. A product made here and consumed here using American energy has a carbon footprint of a few hundred miles. China gets their oil for feed stock from the Middle East, over 7,000 miles away then sends products to us on a ship burning dirty bunker fuel for another 12,000+ miles. We can change that.

I love farmers markets. The fruits and vegetables are fresh. I would rather buy a tomato from a local farmer and help the local economy than buy from Mexico or even California. The local tomato has a lower environmental footprint because of a lower shipping component and doesn’t need to have the packaging required to protect fruits and vegetables shipped long distances. The farmers market supports local people and creates local jobs.

Shale Crescent USA also attended the West Virginia Manufacturers Association (WVMA) Conference and Expo in Morgantown this week. It was our first in-person large meeting since the pandemic. We were one of the presenters and had our exhibit booth out for the first time since the pandemic. They limited people to four to a table. Masks weren’t required. It was fun to get out see friends and network again. We made good contacts that will help prospects who are coming to the region. In most cases for me, networking is more valuable and more educational than the talks.

We learned at WVMA that WVU and the National Energy Technology Laboratories (NETL) in Pittsburgh and Morgantown are working on extracting critical rare earth metals from coal. Rare earth metals are essential for high tech electronics. We get almost all of our rare earth metals from China even for our military. The process pours garbage into our atmosphere and creates radioactive lakes killing people in China. WVU and NETL are also developing new battery technologies that don’t require cobalt or lithium which are mined outside the USA and have a large environmental impact. All of these are examples of people and organizations taking control of their future. They don’t just complain or be the victim of circumstances created by others.

Workers are in demand. Help wanted signs are everywhere. We saw the supply chain and staffing issues first hand at our hotel in Morgantown. My room was 85 degrees. We learned part of their air conditioning system was down and needed parts that they couldn’t get quickly. (long supply chains) The hotel didn’t have staff to run the restaurant and even the front desk was short staffed in peak times causing long lines. The hotel has been having difficulty finding workers. The people they did have worked hard and had a great attitude. Despite the issues, we had a great stay because of the staff. We were able to get our room temperature down to 74.

Staffing shortages aren’t limited to food service or hospitality workers. There are high wage jobs looking for people to fill them. One engineering firm in our region is looking for 15 engineers and having trouble finding them. Another has high level project management positions to fill. Plant managers tell me they are having trouble finding people for their operations. These are also high wage jobs that require technical skills. Wages are up. My grandkids in Maryland are getting paid $15 an hour to work at retail stores. This has nothing to do with government. Stores are having trouble filling positions so they are paying more to attract the people they need.

If you are going on vacation don’t be surprised to see long lines at restaurants and grocery stores due to staffing. For our upcoming beach trip with my daughter and her husband we expect to eat out less. We are bringing much of the food we will need for the week. Americans are creative. We will find solutions for these and other problems. We understand anything is possible.