By Zvi Rosen, Assistant Chief Counsel
On March 13, the Office of Advocacy had the opportunity to tour the facility operated by Vicount Industries in Farmington Hills, Mich. Vicount is in the business of designing and developing metal stamping dies and components, mainly for the automotive industry, which uses its dies and components to stamp metal parts for use in automobiles. The tour was led by Joe Padula, the president of Vicount, who has worked at Vicount since the 1980s.
We were given an impressive tour of Vicount’s facility, seeing numerous pieces of equipment including a giant, 2,000-ton press, as well as seeing examples of their handiwork, including parts for various cars and trucks. We also learned more about the progressive die stamping process that Vicount and other companies in its sector use to press parts. The process involves each section of a sheet of metal going through a series of adjustments in the press, and then the sheet is fed forward and the next pressing is completed. By the time the relevant piece of the metal sheet reaches the end of the press, it is a complete part.
While on the tour, Advocacy staff had a chance to discuss changes in the industry since NAFTA went into effect, as well as hearing a common complaint in the manufacturing sector – the shortage of qualified personnel for skilled manufacturing positions. NAFTA served to change the position of Vicount and other small businesses that made dies for stamping – instead of automakers doing stamping themselves, many either spun off or closed their stamping divisions, and new “first tier” contractors came to do most of the stamping work. The bulk of this work is now done in Mexico, so the stamping die will be manufactured in the United States and then Vicount or another company in the sector will send the dies to Mexico for use in its stamping facilities. Vicount has learned not to send its employees along with the dies, but rather to wait until the dies manage to clear customs, which they say can be a disappointingly lengthy process. Padula urged that a revised NAFTA include provisions for frictionless export of industrial parts from the United States to Mexico, so their employees would not need to wait for customs to clear the dies in order to more quickly complete their contractual obligations and see car parts coming from the stamping dies that Vicount makes.
Advocacy was in Detroit for a Regional Regulatory Reform Roundtable and NAFTA Modernization Outreach Meeting on March 13.
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Zvi Rosen is an Assistant Chief Counsel for Advocacy whose portfolio includes intellectual property. Rosen can be reached at email@example.com.