Afterthought: The Next Decade

Today’s Machining World Archives January/February 2011 Volume 7 Issue 1

This magazine has lived 10 beautiful years and we celebrate with this special anniversary issue. I think a decade in publication years is a turtle’s age. In machine terms it’s a 50-year-old National Acme’s age or a 30-year-old Cincinnati centerless. And like those old warrior machines, it’s about time to change bearings.

I’ll use the word bearings not in the tinkerer’s lingo but in the more metaphorical sense. It’s time to reorient and look away from a decade of manufacturing despair in North America to one of confidence and optimism.

The last 10 years have been a siege interrupted by occasional respites from war. The structural changes started in the 1990s but were masked by the tech boom. The bursting of the Internet bubble in 2000, the shock of September 11th, which killed the myth of American invulnerability, the folly of initiating two Middle Eastern wars while we failed to address the enormous drain of buying imported oil, and allowing unfettered derivative speculation on Wall Street set us up for the bust of 2008.

What a dirty decade.

But it’s over now.

The country has changed enormously. Andrew Cuomo, the new Governor of New York, is talking like he’s been invited to a Tea Party. So is Jerry Brown in California. These SODs (Sons of Democrats) are realistic enough to see that New York and California will become the next Detroit or Gary if they don’t shape up fast. The world is different now.

The U.S. is not Japan—it can change relatively fast. I see it happening, and I am really optimistic. If GM can change itself in two years, what else is possible? If a black man can become the U.S. President, what else is possible? If Apple surpasses Microsoft in market cap, what else is possible? If Facebook touches 500 million people, what else is possible? If stent procedures are almost commonplace, what else is possible?

What I think is quite possible is a resurgence of manufacturing in North America. It will require a rebuilding of skills in the workforce, but I detect a change in attitudes about work. Community colleges and an array of private colleges like Apollo’s University of Phoenix are changing American education. Kids want to work, become independent, buy homes and cars, and have children.

Give them work and training and they will grow. The Boomers were good, but their replacements are going to be excellent if we help them progress. And eventually they will buy the homes that are now finally being priced to the market.

We have lived through a brutal decade. Thousands of kids’ lives have been wasted or devastated in Iraq and Afghanistan. But that’s ending soon, I believe. This new decade is going to be a good one in America, and it could be a great one for the men and women who can make things well.

I did a piece for TMW last year about the Bothe family in Kenosha, Wisconsin. They had a languishing 50-yearold family business—a machine shop with dead customers. They had an idea to make beautiful, tactilely luscious knitting needles out of machined aluminum in their own plant on a CNC Swiss lathe. The business took off and now they are doubling sales every few months.

Their story is similar to Tony Maglica’s flashlight business, Mag Instrument, which began 40 years ago. At 80, Tony is still making millions of perfect lights in his Ontario, California, factory.

The joy of doing TMW is writing about the creative, industrious and inspirational people who get to make good stuff on sweet machines and who keep getting better at it.

Hopefully, we’ll keep getting better at writing about them. I’m really looking forward to a new decade of Today’s Machining World, and to writing it for you.

Lloyd Graff

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