August 2014

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August 2014 | Construction Equipment Distribution | www.cedmag.com | 7 BY KIM PHELAN It was kind of a long, four-hour drive from the suburbs of Chicago to Viola, Wis., the last hour of which took me along a two-lane highway northwest of Madison that slowed to 30 MPH every so often to pass through one small Midwest town after another. But seeing the little factory that sits on a hill among Amish farms was well worth the trip. The occasion was the 40th anni- versary celebration of Lowe Manufac- turing. It was a simple affair, but the pride and warm hospitality of owners Richard and Mary Lowe was gratify- ing as they welcomed their guests, among whom were five Wisconsin state lawmakers and Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch. (Take a look at page 14.) These dignitaries, as well as all other attendees, were given tours of the manufacturing facility where the famous Lowe augers, trenchers and grapples are produced by a pretty small but efficient team of dedicated, nonunion employees. This walk- around, as well as product demos out back, gave us all a clear picture of why the company has enjoyed its 40 years of success, even after going through a disheartening fire that destroyed everything in 2001. They make high-quality products and they have tenaciously loyal people. Funny how one short anecdote that day stuck with me all these weeks later. We heard how Richard Lowe's dad had this great idea for an auger, and he was determined to start his own company to build it. But he had a helluva time getting his dream off the ground – seems all the banks he went to in the beginning weren't all that enthusiastic. And one of the biggest push-backs: "You're too old." But Mr. Lowe was in his early 50s! Seriously? I mean the guy was clearly in his prime! I'm glad Lowe Manufacturing got the opportunity to hatch all its product ideas and harness the valuable human energy – including Richard and Mary's leadership – that have made them great competitors in the global attachments marketplace through the last four decades. But they'd probably be the first to tell you that one thing upon which their future success hinges and which is in ever-decreasing supply, is a new stream of well trained and skilled workers. It's the secret sauce for this industry's success, and not just ours, but lots of other industries, too. It may be why some of the Lowes' invited guests were local workforce development officials. Folks, we've got a problem, which some would venture to call an epi- demic. There aren't enough young people who know about and hence want to enter careers in technical fields. And however you may see that manifesting itself in your corner of the world, it's almost certainly going to worsen with time if the pattern is not reversed or completely redrawn. One of the biggest tragedies, apart from the threat to your dealership, is that kids who have natural mechani- cal talent written in their DNA are told that only a four-year bachelor's degree is the yellow brick road to success in life – but evidence to the contrary is all around us! How could we have taken such a wrong turn and driven so long with- out making a correction? Let me introduce you to two people who can help get us back on track. 1. Meet Brooke Renner – well, figuratively speaking, by video at bit.ly/dieselgirl, and see the results of when community, industry, education and family lower their silo walls and work together. I am so impressed by this young woman and her achieve- ments as an up-and-coming diesel technician. She's so good she won a coveted Mike Rowe tool scholarship for being one of the Top 2 students in her AED-accredited technology program at North Dakota State Col- lege of Science. Her story may inspire you to get active in nearby tech pro- grams or at your local school district to inform kids, teachers and parents about great career potential in your industry. (The AED Foundation is here for you to help get you started.) 2. Meet Ed Gordon – he's a researcher, author and consultant who was recently invited to partici- pate in a high-level White House con- ference on how to solve the skilled jobs gap in the U.S. (but hey, Canada, this applies to you, too.) I invited Ed to come to the AED/Infor Forum to explain the scope of the problem and how it can be fixed – and yes, it can be fixed. (See page 40.) Come to Forum Sept. 18-19 – you will not be disappointed. And thanks for reading. A Long, Long Drive to a Wise Conclusion There's been a serious workforce wrong turn – so, in the words of my old scolding Garmin, let's do some "Recalculating!" Editor's Note KIM PHELAN (kphelan@aednet.org) is the executive editor of Construction Equipment Distribution and director of programs for AED.

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