Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Columns

May 4, 2013

Made in America makes a comeback as a country legend takes his final bow

It may not be happening as noticeably here in Four Seasons Country but the fact remains that some 500,000 manufacturing jobs have been created in America since 2009. Researchers Rana Foroohar and Bill Saporito penned an interesting article recently noting that “Made in the USA” is making a comeback.

Factory jobs are increasing — not decreasing — for the first time since 2002. Yes, it is a slow pace but at least the trend is encouraging. There are other positive signs. Home mortgage rates for the 20-year plan are at their lowest rates ever and the 30-year home loan numbers are nearly as good. Realtors from coast to coast are pleased with the news.

A host of numbers from various research groups are significant. For one, the Chinese are having to pay more for their labor. A decade ago, the “average” Chinese worker earned $.50 cents an hour. By 2015, that figure will have increased to $4.50 for every 60 minutes of work. It’s making a difference in the price of goods and consumers are taking notice.

To be sure, there are not as many Americans directly working in the manufacturing sector. For example, in 1979 there were 17 million manufacturing workers and at the end of 2012, that total was  pegged at approximately 12 million. However, the wages had improved from an average of $60,168 per U.S. worker in other industries to $77,060 for the ones fortunate enough to find a manufacturing position.

Quality of workmanship and speed of delivery are two key components of the resurgence of American popularity. The U.S. employees are again becoming known for producing higher standards of products while at the same time being able to deliver them to customers around the world quicker than other countries. It is a potent prescription for a more healthy economy.

Computers, automation, increased education, and improved efficiency are some of the major reasons. Factories are known for being quieter, cleaner, and filled with more “space age” technology than ever before. Companies are increasingly relying on a college-educated workforce to gain an edge in the global (and national) markets.

A giant leap may not be on the horizon but American manufacturing appears to be on a steady rise in the next decade.

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Visions of a lawnmower chugging toward a liquor store are only one of the legion of recollections from the life of the late country singer George Jones. Jones was a Texan who rose from humble beginnings, took a tour in the Marine Corps, and stood by his music (for several years with ex-wife Tammy Wynette) in a career virtually unique among modern artists.

He sang about lives filled with trouble, heartbreak, and misfortune. Jones then lived through many of those stories in his own tangled journey. He was a man who could sing what has been voted the greatest song in the history of country music, “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” and then disappoint fans over and over by simply failing to show up for concerts.

At Jones’ funeral Thursday in Nashville, it was Wynonna Judd who commented on Jones’ perfect hair and in the same service Kid Rock made the audience laugh as he performed while noting about the leap of imagination of having “a long-haired, unshaven confused country hip-hop rock n’ roller trying to sing George Jones.”

It was a dichotomy that made perfect sense in Jones’ case. Although on stage he was a quintessential performer who sported sequined outfits, exactly trimmed hair, and all the other trimmings associated with tradition, away from the spotlight he was at times as rough and ragged as any neighborhood miscreant. His battles with alcohol and other drugs are well documented. In fact, his many kindnesses to friends and fans are also widely known.

Whatever George Jones did seemed to make news. Any show he was a part of immediately became more noteworthy. Through divorce, dependency, or finally, a peaceful home life, “the Possum” was seldom ignored. His was a link to the classic days of honky-tonk, to the old Ryman Auditorium, Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge, and beers that made Milwaukee (and lots of other towns) famous.

Yet that baritone cut through it all and made him one of the most unique sounds/singers of any time. He did not tease a crowd or use pyrotechnics to dazzle the audience. When Jones performed, he just walked up to the microphone and started doing what he did better than almost anyone — sing the songs that the people came to hear.

For that and a host of other reasons, music fans can be forgiven for honestly wondering in a paraphrase of one of Jones’ best known songs — “Who’s Gonna Fill His Shoes?”

Larry Hypes, a teacher at Tazewell High School, is a Daily Telegraph columnist.



 

 

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