For a brief time, security at ConExpo-Con/Agg 2005 was elevated a notch on Wednesday. Those wanting to see Al Frink, assistant secretary for Manufacturing and Services for the U.S. Department of Commerce, had to wait as officials checked all corners of the designated conference room. Frink then proceeded to make the industry feel safe under his watch.
Frink's position didn't even exist a year ago, but President George W. Bush worked to establish a manufacturing presence in the cabinet ranks. "The position literally came from roundtables," said Frink. "People had concerns about manufacturing. We now have a domestic agenda, not just an international agenda. It's part of the new reorganization."
Frink hit the job running. Since breaking into the position last Fall he has visited over 70 manufacturers and 21 industry association groups. He also led an eight-day policy mission in China.
Frink has used the personal visits to establish a closer relationship to the industry. At one particular plant, workers approached him and placed their years of service pins in his hand. It's a scene Frink won't soon forget. "They just said they didn't want any favors, just an even playing field," said Frink.
Enforcement in China alone has increased 25%, and Frink's department has established an unfair trade practices task force to identify problems before U.S. manufacturers are harmed.
"We've hired a new secretary for industrial analysis to fight the regulations that affect America," said Frink. "Eighty regulations can be reformed to make it easier for companies to compete."
Education also needs to be addressed. Frink noted that 70 million baby boomers will retire by 2015, which could leave a serious shortfall in the workforce. "Education is one thing we are going to focus on," he