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Sen. Roberts tours Doonan Specialized Trailers

POSTED August 8, 2018 6:06 p.m.
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Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kansas) toured Doonan Specialized Trailers on Wednesday and heard first-hand how tariffs on steel and aluminum are hurting the local manufacturing plant. Mike Gordy, co-manager of operations, said it now costs an addition $800 to build a trailer.
The company is not alone.
“We’ve got a lot of industrial manufacturing in Kansas,” Gordy said. Because U.S. steel is too expensive and of lower quality, Doonan buys its steel from Canada.


Roberts said he agrees with what President Trump wants to do in the long run but he’s concerned that tariffs and retaliation from countries such as China are hurting manufacturers and the agriculture industry, “the backbone of America.” He discussed this with U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Louis Ross Jr. in June after hearing from the owner of Shield Agriculture Equipment in South Hutchinson.


Gordy also talked about the shortage of labor. Doonan has approximately 100 employees and its top welders can earn over $40,000 a year with overtime at about $17.68 per hour, but the jobs are difficult to fill.
The company designs and builds specialized trailers, and is number three in the industry for the production of drop-bed trailers.
“Fifty percent of our workforce are welders and we train about 90 percent in-house,” he said. Barton Community College started a welding program and Doonan hired all four of the first year’s graduates but only one has stayed with the company.


Roberts has been touring manufacturing plants across the state during the Congressional recess. The issues raised in Great Bend – from the cost of steel to the shortage of workers and the lack of a work ethic – are being heard everywhere. He mentioned the plant in South Hutchinson and a John Deere manufacturing plant in Coffeyville.
“We have more jobs than people,” he said as he watched employees atop a trailer operating industrial tools. Roberts asked about a woman who was among the workers and learned that “Emma” chose the physically demanding job because it pays well.


“This is a very unique enterprise here,” Roberts said at the end of the tour. “I especially like his commitment to hiring women.”


Before leaving the plant, Roberts elaborated on his thoughts on trade. He said wheat for Mexico that should come from Kansas is now coming from Argentina, and corn is coming from Brazil since the United States pulled out of the North American Free Trade Agreement. Trump also signed an executive order to pull out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.
“I agree with the President’s long-term goal,” Roberts said, but he would like the president to “take another look at TPP.”


“That’s why we have to have a Farm Bill,” Roberts added, saying producers need a safety net.
Last week, the Senator commented on the Senate’s passage of the Farm Bill with a vote of 86-11. “This was a historic vote, our bill received more votes than any other Farm Bill at this stage,” Roberts stated in his newsletter. “I am pleased this important legislation, which provides certainty and predictability for farmers, passed with such strong bipartisan support. I will continue working to ensure the 2018 Farm Bill becomes law before the current legislation expires in September."
During the Congressional recess, Roberts has toured or will tour the KU Cancer Center, Dodge City Chamber of Commerce, Garden City Chamber of Commerce, Syracuse Rotary, Kearney County Hospital, Pioneer Communications, Liberal Chamber of Commerce and the Dodge City Farm Breakfast.

COMMENTS

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DeweyDan: August 9, 2018 8:03 a.m.

I worked at the Larned State Security Hospital for over a quarter of a Century. WORK ETHICS is the biggest problem we encountered the last 5 years till my retirement. This is the reason for the large turnover. Everyone wants the money but only a few are willing to work for it and keep coming back. I raised my children to work, so what happened to our grandkids.



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