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During the recent IMPACT Washington D.C. 2017 event, I-Connect007 Managing Editor Patty Goldman caught up with Dave Raby, president and CEO of EMS firm STI Electronics, to discuss about the event and their meetings with representatives of the government that came over to hear what the collective electronics manufacturing industry has to say.
Patty Goldman: Dave, it’s good to see you again. How was your day at IMPACT?
Dave Raby: Today has been great. I didn’t know what to expect, judging from the ongoing news coverage of how horrible things are in D.C. and all that. But we found a whole different attitude. People were happy to see us! They wanted to know what they could do for us. They were receptive to ideas. They wanted input.
Goldman: And it wasn’t a forced thing. They were genuinely interested, though of course nothing happens overnight, as they said.
Raby: That is true, and we’ll see what the results are. Nothing we said today is going to change a law tomorrow, but I felt good about the people we visited and those who spoke with us.
Goldman: Me too. We started out with Congressman Bill Johnson (R-OH) last night, a champion for our industry. He makes you feel good about your country and that things are not so bad in Congress as we hear.
Raby: Yes. I like him.
Goldman: Does anyone in particular stand out for you today?
Raby: They were all impressive, they really were. It was great to meet with Scott Pruitt who is the administrator of the EPA and a member of President Trump’s cabinet. We also met with Daris Meeks who is Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of Domestic Policy for Vice President Pence. It was hard not be overwhelmed by those offices and all of the surroundings.
Personally, I was most impressed by Alexander Gray who is Special Assistant to the President and Director of the White House Domestic Policy. He had a true understanding of our industry and the issues we face and was committed to finding solutions. He understood how a supply chain and business works. I had not experienced that before or least not from someone who could articulate their understanding. He had an appreciation for every step along the way and was interested in how the government could help or stay out of the way. He asked us to email him if we were facing a reduction in force due to a government regulation change. That impressed me.
Goldman: You’ve gone to more of these IMPACT events than I have, but it seems that we’re seeing perhaps a higher level of people within the administrations.
Raby: We are and, continuing with the theme, they really did seem genuinely interested in what we had to say. EPA Administrator Pruitt knew some of what we were talking about but would look to his deputy for help on other issues and ask IPC to send him more information on others. IPC has done a lot of work on environmental issues but this was our first time to get to meet with the Administrator and he seemed genuinely happy to see us and get our input. We were not treated like we were the enemy.
Mr. Meeks was also very welcoming. He was receptive to IPC’s position and stressed his mandate to help us create jobs (everyone we talked with seemed to understand that government does not create jobs) and had a particular interest in high-tech and space which are both near and dear to my heart.
Goldman: I was impressed by Kim Ford, the deputy assistant secretary for Education, and her enthusiasm and interest in what we do and how her department can help.
Raby: Yes, she was great. It was funny. John [Mitchell] was trying to get the meeting started and she was going around the room shaking hands with everybody and introducing herself. She was just bubbling and seemed so excited to be with us. She was in that job during the last administration, but she didn’t come speak to us and we didn’t see her. I may be wrong on this but my impression was she seemed to have been freed to do her job and was very excited at the prospect. She understood what was going on in our industry regarding skills gaps and was quick to say (even being from the U.S. Department of Education) that not everyone needs to go to college. She also recognized that some of that skills gap is a basic education of what is expected from an employee.
Goldman: And as she said, part of it is Johnny coming to work every day.
Raby: Yes. Well, that’s the thing you know. “Do I really have to be there at 8:00 every morning?” “Yeah you do.” I was impressed with everybody we met today. What really stands out in my mind though is their enthusiasm, willingness to listen and genuine interest in finding solutions for our industry.
Goldman: I wonder, the administration has been in office about a hundred days, as they keep telling us. Did these people and departments really change that quickly? Or was it like this before and it was just suppressed?
Raby: I don’t know the answer to that. It would be guessing on my part, because we didn’t meet with these people before. Everyone we met with today seemed to be committed to working with industry to solve the problems we have, and the status quo in many cases is the problem.