Can We Make It Here Anymore?

There has been renewed discussion of the “Buy American” mandates recently. AGMA has a long history on this topic and successfully challenged -in court- the illegal “dumping” of imported gearboxes on our domestic market back in the 1980s. National policy, unfortunately, did not support that court decision and the retrenchment of American gear manufacturing began.

Following the 2008 financial crisis, investment in infrastructure and alternate energy offered hope for increased domestic production. Some may recall the bevy of groundbreaking ceremonies for American facilities by well established European wind turbine manufacturers. State governments competed with each other on incentive packages. Thousands of great paying jobs were promised. I remember attending wind energy and machine tool shows just before the “crash” and the mood was “gold rush -we are all going to get rich.” Even the financial crisis, which was starting during the International Machine Tool Show in Chicago, did not change that optimism for wind energy.

While the “rescue plan” was being debated in early 2009, I traveled to Berlin on behalf of a client to attend a seminar of German-American cooperation on clean energy. The hosts were nervous about the proposed “domestic content” requirements in the package. They were fine with building towers and blades in the United States but balked at having gearboxes built anywhere but Europe.

Or China, as it turned out. Huge facilities were constructed in China, filled with European equipment, and staffed by “factory trained” technicians. Wind farms that got U.S. Department of Energy subsidies somehow got authorization to use imported turbines and the promised boom for the gear industry never happened.

Will it be different this time? Will our infrastructure investment insist upon American steel, engineering, and construction equipment or will it once again be placed with the low bidder using “free market” sourced products? Will the general public even have a say in the matter? If you care about this matter, do not wait to contact your elected officials.

About Charles D. Schultz 678 Articles
Charles D. Schultz is President of Beyta Gear Service and one of Gear Technology's technical editors.