PRINCETON — A Mercer County manufacturer was the scene Friday when one of West Virginia’s congressional representatives toured its many facilities as part of an effort to promote American manufacturing and keep it competitive in the global marketplace.

U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., met with leaders of Conn-Weld Industries and representatives of the Association of Equipment (AEM) and its national grassroots campaign, I Make America. This campaign hosts lawmakers at AEM member company facilities across the United States to highlight the challenges and opportunities facing the equipment manufacturing industry.

Conn-Weld Industries is an equipment manufacturing and engineering firm. Their product offerings include vibrating screens, sieves, baskets and media that serve a wide range of industries and sectors, such as mining, food processing and pulp and paper processing.

Capito toured the company’s manufacturing facility and met with employees on the factory floor. Conn-Weld Industries employs more than 275 people at their Princeton facility. The senator and company leaders spoke with Conn-Weld employees in the company’s new 100,000 square-foot building.

“It was great to visit with individuals who are truly making America, and whose efforts greatly contribute to the manufacturing economy of our state and nation,” Capito stated. “Throughout my time in Congress, I have continuously worked to bring forward solutions that ease the tax burden placed on our manufacturers, and make sure they have the resources necessary to invest back into their business and their workforce. Conn-Weld is a great example of a company that is directly investing into our state and our communities, and that is evident by their expansion efforts currently underway.”

Conn-Weld Industries works with local schools and encourages students to pursue local manufacturing careers.

“As a manufacturer in southern West Virginia, it is important to us to ensure that our voice is being heard so that we can continue to provide good jobs and career paths in our state and the industries that support these jobs,” said Marvin Woodie, president of Conn-Weld Industries, LLC. “That’s why we are honored to partner with the Association of Equipment Manufacturers to welcome Senator Shelley Moore Capito and her staff to Conn-Weld Industries.”

“Manufacturing and mining are two powerful engines for growth in the state’s economy, and that is why we need our elected officials to advance policies that help businesses invest in their communities and hire more Americans,” stated Kip Eideberg, Senior Vice President, Association of Equipment Manufacturers. “Equipment manufacturers support more than 3,700 family-sustaining jobs in West Virginia, and we are grateful to Senator Capito for her leadership and ability to work effectively with her colleagues in the U.S. Senate to hammer out bipartisan solutions to tough problems.”

When the Covid-19 pandemic reached the United States, it soon became obvious that many of the masks, disinfectants and other items needed to combat the disease are manufactured overseas, Capito told Conn-Weld’s employees.

“A lot of companies outsource lot of their work to countries that we now no longer consider a friend,” she said. “The president was trying to convince us yesterday that China is our friend. I’m telling you, they’re not our friend. They want to beat us every single time they can and they’ve been doing a good job at stealing our intellectual property, at making and developing customers all around the world.”

Capito said that she has visited Africa and learned there that while Chinese companies build airports and other facilities in African nations, they bring in laborers from their own country rather than employ local people.

“They bring in Chinese labor and then they leave; and guess what, they own it all in the end. Farmland is being bought up, all kinds of things,” she said. “That’s a cautionary tale, and I know that some day in a world better than what we have right now, that’s going to change and we’re all going to be reexchanging our manufacturing. For right now, what we learned from this, we outsource a lot of our manufacturing and during Covid, it really hit home.”

The Association of Equipment Manufacturers is calling on Congress to pass legislation that will lower the cost of financing the critical investments in machinery and equipment necessary for its almost 1,100 member companies to continue to make the equipment that builds, powers, and feeds the world, Eideberg said.

“The current requirement for businesses to calculate their interest expense deductions based on the stringent earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) standard has increased the cost of doing business and has led to reduced investment, slower job creation, and stunted economic growth. We are very grateful to Senator Capito for leading the charge on critical legislation that will encourage investment in American manufacturing and strengthen our national supply chain,” added Eideberg.