Forging Industry Association members continued their education of policymakers April 17, when FIA’s annual Lobby Day was held in Washington, D.C. On that day, more than two dozen FIA members representing North American forging operations and suppliers to the industry converged on the Capitol to meet with individual Senators, Representatives and their staffs to discuss issues of concern to the forging industry. Members from Connecticut, Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Texas and Wisconsin participated.

Among the top-priority issues discussed this year were: energy policy, overreach by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the possibility of comprehensive tax reform and the looming crisis in workforce development. Other issues included the impact of defense budget cuts on the forging industry, continuing concerns about healthcare costs and the burdensome cumulative effects of regulations.

On energy policy, FIA members pointed out that forging is energy intensive and relies on adequate supplies of affordable natural gas and electricity. At the same time, forging is critical to the development of alternative-energy sources, such as wind, solar and nuclear power, because many of the components of those facilities are forged.

Regarding the NLRB, Lobby Day participants argued that recent rulings by the Board, if not reversed or substantially amended, will upset the balance of employee-employer relations, making it much more difficult for employers to communicate with their employees regarding union representation. FIA is made up of both union and non-union forge shops and suppliers, and FIA members believe that respecting employees, regardless of union affiliation, is the key to success in today’s global marketplace.

The prospect for comprehensive tax reform was also high on FIA’s agenda. In general, FIA members argue for tax reform that makes U.S. manufacturing more competitive, but they point out that many forging companies are pass-through entities that, due to their business structure, pay taxes at individual rates. In addition, many are small and medium-sized enterprises that currently utilize various tax credits and deductions – such as the Research and Development tax credit, bonus depreciation, Section 199 domestic production credit and Section 179 expensing – as ways to reduce their overall tax burden and remain globally competitive. The impact of these and other tax provisions affecting forgers must be carefully evaluated in developing comprehensive tax reform to avoid unintended negative consequences.

Workplace development is a growing concern for U.S. manufacturers, and the forging industry is no exception. Manufacturers find it increasingly difficult to replace skilled workers who retire and are seeking employer-focused, demand-driven workforce development programs that focus on the needs of manufacturers and combine vocational training with on-the-job training. Accordingly, FIA supports public/private partnerships to provide better coordination among educators, government and the private sector in recruiting employees into manufacturing and providing them the basic educational foundation and job training to fill high-skill positions.

More details will be available in August’s issue.