SIDNEY — U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, visited Sidney Tuesday, Feb. 21, when he toured the facilities at Sapa Extrusions Inc., 401 N Stolle Ave. Sidney. Sapa offers advanced aluminum fabrication and contract manufacturing services for the automobile, truck, and agricultural machinery industry.
“I came to see local employees in action, to witness the manufacturing process firsthand, it’s encouraging to see that level of expertise exists here in Sidney and elsewhere across the State of Ohio.” Portman said.
While at Sapa Portman met with company leadership to assure them he has their best interest at heart and highlighted his efforts to protect Ohio jobs. He also addressed “aluminum overcapacity” and efforts insure a better future through enforcement of fair trade laws and further legislation to control the amount and quality of aluminum being “dumped” in the US by China and other nations.
“It is hurting local industry and others across the United States” said Portman, “And we are working hard to remedy the situation.”
In October 2016, Portman and Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, wrote to U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Michael Froman requesting legal action be taken to protect Ohio jobs and to crack down on China’s aluminum trade violations. At the urging of Portman and Brown, Froman launched a World Trade Organization (WTO) case against China to address aluminum overcapacity, which hurts American aluminum manufacturers and their workers.
“Fifteen thousand workers in U.S. aluminum production have lost their jobs in the last decade, including 1,500 this year alone. Our goal is to level the playing field which results in more jobs for Ohioans and a better economy” said Portman.
Portman noted Ohio aluminum producers can compete and win when they have a level playing field.
“Unfortunately, when competitors like China cheat by subsidizing domestic industry and circumventing trade rules, it leads to a flood of unfair and illegal imports that hurt Ohio companies who play by the rules,” said Portman whose focus is on protecting Ohio workers and their jobs. “I am pleased that the Administration followed our advice and is standing up for U.S. aluminum producers at the WTO. When China drives down aluminum costs by cheating, Ohio workers and manufacturers pay the price. Thousands have lost jobs because of unfairly subsidized aluminum from China that has flooded the market and led to overcapacity, and its past time we get tough on these violations before more American workers suffer, the lawsuit insures others play by the rules.”
After the tour, and before leaving Sidney, Senator Portman spoke briefly on the subject of on-going political unrest and protests across the state of Ohio, Washington, D.C., and across the nation concerning among other things, cabinet appointments by President Donald J. Trump. Portman said the diversity of opinions and the need to stay in touch with the voters.
“I’m always interested in the opinions of my constituents, I want to hear from the people and desire to learn about their concerns” Portman said.
Portman noted people have a right to protest, but the protests should be conducted in a peaceful manner unlike much of the recent violent and destructive practices of those opposing Trump.
“I hear you” is Portman’s message to the protestors. “I get new reports daily on how many people have called me and what they called about, I also look at emails and so I’m very well informed as to what people are corresponding about” the Senator said.
Portman also said he holds a number of telephone conferences or “tele-town hall meetings” on a regular basis.
“Telephone conferences and polls also provide a lot of good information on how the public feels. Often times there are over ten thousand people participating in those conversations which reflects the mood of the public” Portman said, “Ohio is a divided state, for instance recent polls indicate those living in central Ohio were 2 to 1 in favor of President Trump’s nominees while in the southeastern part of the state support for his appointments was only about 50-50.”
What I would say to those folks who are protesting or demonstrating is they have every right to do that, but let’s keep it peaceful, let’s also realize this is a big state, obviously we have a lot of different points of view out there,” he said.
While in the area Portman also visited the Traffic Research Center near Bellefontaine Ohio and some other manufacturing facilities in the area.
The writer is a regular contributor to the Sidney Daily News.