Grassley meets with constituents in Fairfield
U.S. Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa paid a visit to Fairfield Tuesday where he spoke with employees of Agri-Industrial Plastics and toured the facility.
Grassley said that, in recent years, he has made a concerted effort to talk to people where they work during the day. He said not everyone can attend his town hall meetings because they’re busy working, so to solve that problem he goes to where they are.
“I thought it was my first visit [to Agri-Industrial Plastics],” Grassley said. “They said they thought I’d been here before, and it was verified by one of the people in the room who said I was here 15 or 16 years ago. In those days, when I visited, I didn’t used to have a question and answer session with the employees. In the last 15 years, I told them, ‘If I’m going to your business, I want to interact with the people who produce because they can’t come to my town meetings.’ I hope that between Rotary meetings, businesses and high schools, I’m talking to a wide cross-section of people.”
Grassley said the thing he was most impressed with during his visit was that Agri-Industrial Plastics is still run by the people who founded it. He was also impressed with the blow-molding technology itself.
Advanced manufacturing is an important part of the nation’s economy as well as the state’s, Grassley said. He remarked that educating young people in those trades is critical to growing the economic pie and ensuring America can compete with other countries.
“We want to acquaint people with smart manufacturing, so they know that it’s not the tedious manufacturing of old,” he said. “No. 2, it’s important to make American manufacturing competitive with the rest of the world so we don’t lose manufacturing jobs overseas. Thirdly, we need to get our community colleges oriented toward smart manufacturing.”
Grassley talked about Iowa Western Community College in Council Bluffs, which has set up a satellite office in Atlantic that provides job training to young people in the hopes they’ll stay in Iowa. He said that could include training in advanced manufacturing or information technology.
Owing to the size and sophistication of their machines, many advanced manufacturing plants rely on foreign trade to supply the specific parts they need. Grassley said it’s true that companies in Iowa must import some of their products from other countries, but he said the state exports a large amount of goods as well.
“John Deere exports about 22 percent of their tractors,” he said. “3M in Knoxville exports about 40 percent of its products. Vermeer in Pella exports about one-third of its product. Iowa benefits from importing state-of-the-art machinery that perhaps we don’t have here, which makes our manufacturing better and more competitive internationally.”
Grassley said he let the employees dictate the agenda of Tuesday’s meeting, which he promised to “tweet” about afterward on the website Twitter. He had an advisor with him who wrote down all the questions so he could investigate them in Washington, D.C., if he didn’t know the answer at the time.
“They asked me questions about issues such as energy problems, the Keystone XL pipeline and Obamacare,” he said. “The key political issue today is whether the Republicans or Democrats will control the Senate after the November elections, and I think we [Republicans] will control it.”
The Democrats enjoy a 53-45 majority in the U.S. Senate. Two senators are independent and both of them caucus with the Democrats.
Grassley won re-election to his Senate seat in 2010, so he will not come up for re-election until 2016 since senators serve six-year terms. He said he expects the issues that will impact the 2014 mid-term elections will be the economy and the Affordable Care Act, colloquially known as Obamacare.