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In today’s crazy world, it’s easy to feel out of control. The economy is still shaky, and there’s not much we can do about it. Imports from Southeast Asia are increasing, and we feel powerless to stop them. State and federal legislators continue to pass tough environmental laws while turning a deaf ear to our arguments that some of these laws will adversely affect our profitability and will do little to help the environment. How can we keep from being completely overwhelmed by these and other industry-related issues?
Many ceramic manufacturers are finding that there is strength in numbers. By collaborating with other industry professionals through associations, task forces, coalitions and organizations, we can often accomplish much more than we would be able to achieve alone. For instance, the Ad Hoc Coalition for Fair Trade in Insulators—an industry group comprised of Lapp Insulator Co. LLC, Newell Porcelain Co., Inc., Victor Insulators, Inc. and the IUE Industrial Division of the Communication Workers of America—filed a petition on December 31, 2002, requesting that the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) investigate the effects of imports of high and ultra-high voltage station posts from Japan. As a result of their efforts, the ITC ruled in February 2003 that there is a reasonable indication that imports of high voltage ceramic station post insulators from Japan are injuring U.S. producers. The investigation is still ongoing and probably won’t be concluded until the end of 2003. But if the ITC determines in the final phase of its investigation that these imports have injured or threaten to injure the domestic industry, antidumping duties will be imposed on Japanese insulators to offset whatever dumping margin is found to exist—thereby leveling the playing field in the insulator industry. If one insulator manufacturer had approached the ITC alone, it is unlikely that any investigation would have taken place.
In the brick and structural clay industry, it’s the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) MACT rule that is posing an economic threat to a number of small businesses. A task force backed by the Brick Industry Association and other organizations was successful in getting periodic kilns removed from the preliminary version of the rule, which was released in July 2002. Through additional lobbying efforts on the part of the task force, as well as more than 80 public comment letters from industry members, the EPA made several changes in the industry’s favor to the final rule, which was released March 5, 2003. (See the article "The Final MACT Rule.") Although many in the industry feel that the final rule still goes too far, it is likely that the rule would have been much more stringent had it not been for the collaborative efforts of industry members.
Many of us belong to one or more industry associations or organizations. But are we really making the most of these connections? Are we really getting involved and helping each other take action? We all face a number of common problems—by working together, we can find more effective solutions and can make our voices heard.