Pella — United States Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker visited Vermeer Corporation in Pella on Thursday, just weeks after being sworn in to the position.
Pritzker was confirmed by the Senate with 97 votes and sworn in to her post on June 26. She is currently on a listening tour to see what American companies need from the Obama Administration to help them succeed. Prior stops on her tour before Pella included Denver, Colo., and Nashville, Tenn.
She toured plants and the parts supply area of the Pella-based corporation, all of which were more quiet than usual as the facility was on shutdown Thursday and Friday. According to one of the plant managers, Kevin Van Engelenhoven, Vermeer chose to do this to allow its employees to enjoy festivities such as the Knoxville Nationals and Iowa State Fair. The shutdown also gives the factory time to perform preventative maintenance.
Vermeer employs approximately 3,500 people worldwide. Of those, 2,500 are employed in Pella. The number of product models made at Vermeer number at 150, and 30 percent of the company's sales are shipped overseas.
That number is growing as well, which is why Vermeer CEO Mary Andringa believes one of the government's largest roles in manufacturing is keeping markets open to American products. Panama is one such market the government has worked to expand exportation to, which has worked out for Vermeer. Andringa is a member of the President's Export Council to advise on the needs of American companies.
The United States Government is looking to expand the role it plays in manufacturing. Sen. Tom Harkin, who took part in Thursday's tour, said that the country is looking into opening a series of manufacturing innovation centers. One is already open in Ohio. Harkin said part of the inspiration comes from Germany, which controls 600 centers and employs 20,000 people.