June 17, 2016

Sen. Manchin includes Skana Aluminum in regional tour | The Exponent Telegram

CLARKSBURG — Sen. Joe Manchin made five stops in North Central West Virginia on Friday to discuss important issues with businesses and community organizations.

Manchin’s Harrison County stop was Skana Aluminum Co., formerly Precision Coil.

“I’ve known this facility for quite some time,” he said. “I’ve known it when it was up, and I’ve known it when it was down and out. To see it come back and now have 56 good jobs and 56 families depending on it is really something.”

Though Manchin, D-W.Va., hopes to see that number grow even more, he said he said appreciates how far it’s come already.

“We were down in the 20s (in the number of employees), so it’s good to see it active again,” he said.

That increase was made possible by Skana Aluminum Co. taking over the business in October 2012.

“There were only 22 of us, and that had to do with the influx of orders that we had,” said Jim Goad, director of sales administration.

Goad said Skana’s corporate offcie in Wisconsin looked at where orders were heading, and used Clarksburg’s location for East Coast manufacturing.

“They’re going to Louisville and they’re going to Atlanta,” Goad said.

“That’s really helped us grow here, as overall corporate effort and with full support of the state we’ve been able to do that,” Goad said.

Companies such as Skana Aluminum are vital for West Virginia’s economy, Manchin said.

“Basically we’re still a manufacturing economy, or we should be if we’re not,” he said. “I’m not going to just give up all the manufacturing jobs and skilled workers we have and say, ‘OK, we can’t compete anymore.’”

Manchin said he thinks it’s wrong to send so many manufacturing jobs overseas when the skill sets for those jobs are still present here.

“It’s bad for our country, and it’s definitely bad for our communities and towns,” he said. “We’re fighting to keep every job that we have.”

West Virginia — with its mine, oil and gas and aviation workers — is a great place to invest in those needs, Manchin said.

“When you talk about the skill sets that West Virginians have, we do the heavy lifting,” he said. “A lot of things are coming here because our people are good workers. We just need more.”

With changes in West Virginia’s economy and a downturn in the coal and natural gas sectors, companies such as Skana Aluminum have been able to make use of those skilled workers.

“A lot of our maintenance and electricians have come from the coalfields, and we’ve had some gas people because it’s so unsteady,” said Mary Eggett, Skana Aluminum operations manager. “The majority is from the old Precision Coil days, which is good because they know the material, they know the equipment, and there wasn’t a lot of training that had to be done there.”

But those skilled workers are aging, creating the need for a new generation of employees.

“We lost two to retirement, so we’ve got to bring the younger group in and get them trained, which we’ve been able to do,” Eggett said.

During Friday’s tour, Manchin also visited Doddridge County Parks and Recreation to discuss its 4-H program and the Council of Senior Tyler Countians Inc.

“It gives me an idea of what’s going on and basically if they have challenges,” Manchin said. “They’ll tell me things are going good. Can it get better? I always want to know what their capacity is.”

Manchin said he’s constantly asking what more can be done, whether from the state standpoint or from the federal level with programs like OSHA.

“I want to be sure they’re being treated fair,” he said. “Sometimes government can get overreaching or overbearing. There’s a balance to be had, and I want to be sure we have that balance.”

Finding markets to sell more state products is a task Manchin tries to tackle as well.

“There’s a tremendous wood market in Randolph County and through the Eastern Panhandle,” he said. “We have to find out if we can connect with somebody who can do business and keep it all right here in West Virginia.”

Manchin also took the time to speak at West Virginia Rhododendron Girls State and West Virginia American Legion Mountaineer Boys State on Friday.

“I do that every year. I just enjoy it,” he said. “These are our best and brightest. These are the kids that have been very privileged and have opportunity.”

Those students also have the obligation to get other young women and young men involved in the program, Manchin said.

“They’re the leaders of tomorrow, so I’m going to make sure they know how much we need them,” he said.