— By BRIAN SMITH
Manufacturing and industrial businesses were honored Wednesday during the Eighth Annual Industrial/Manufacturer Appreciation Luncheon, held at the Doss Heritage and Culture Center.
The event, attended by about 125 people, was presented by the Weatherford Economic Development Authority and the Weatherford Chamber of Commerce. Three businesses were honored for their work based on size, according to Tammy Gazzola, president of the Weatherford Chamber of Commerce.
She said businesses in Weatherford are not only making an impact locally but also as a part of the world economy.
Winning the Small Business Award, for businesses with 20 employees or less, was Rawlins Monuments Inc. a Weatherford business with 130 years experience. Being honored with the Medium Business Award, for businesses with 21 to 75 employees, was American Pipe and Steel. The business was formed in 2008.
D&T Trucking received the large business of the year after being founded in 2007. The company is one of the largest fragging sand transporters in the country, according to Weatherford Economic Development Authority Executive Director Dennis Clayton.
D&T Trucking CEO Tim Buffington said it was the residents and businesses in Weatherford that make it a great place and he took time to thank both.
Keynote speaker and Texas Workforce Commissioner Tom Pauken said it was businesses like those honored that make Texas “the number one place to do business in America.” Pauken, in his last public speech before retiring at the end of the month, said rebuilding America’s manufacturing base to where it was 50 years ago should be a priority.
“We need to, and are starting to, get away from the philosophy that every student must go to a four-year school and get themselves thousands of dollars into debt,” Pauken said. “We have so many educators that have the ‘teach the test’ mentality and career and technology classes have been de-emphasized in this country for too long.”
The U.S. has lost one-third of its manufacturing base due to downsizing or jobs moving overseas or a number of other reasons in the last 10 years. Returning local control to the districts could potentially allow for everyone to get the education they need with everyone having the same basics. Understanding that students learn differently and that a hands-on approach to skill training is so important to continuing and improving manufacturing success, Pauken said.
Pauken said a student at Texas State Technical College with an associate degree can start at a petrochemical company at $68,000 a year. A welding student with proper certification at a reputable institution can begin at $1,700 a week, as the average age of welders is now 55.
What would also assist in getting businesses back is the total overhaul of the tax system, Pauken said. American goods, such as vehicles are beng taxed at almost 20 percent in Europe while the same is not happening here, Pauken said.
“We need to have American goods be able to play on a level playing field around the world,” Pauken said. “that way, Texas can continue to lead the way for businesses on the right track.”