QUINCY -- U.S. Rep. Darin LaHood left a tour of the Manchester Tank facility Monday afternoon with a better understanding of the workforce gap in manufacturing.
Manchester Tank and other manufacturers are finding increasing demand for their products but are struggling to expand their ranks of skilled laborers.
"There's a lot of opportunity," said LaHood, R-Dunlap, "but they need quality workers here."
LaHood alluded to the June passage of the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act by the U.S. House as a sign legislators are taking action to address the issue. The bill amends the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act to simplify the process for receiving federal funding for training.
"The economy is picking up, and so career and technical education training -- which the federal government can help with -- is a big part of what we need to do," LaHood said.
Monday's tour was also an opportunity for LaHood to address the need for corporate tax reform. He asked representatives of Manchester Tank, and its parent company, McWane Inc., how the money saved by a lower corporate tax rate would be spent. Michael Jones, McWane assistant vice president for corporate communication, said the money would be reinvested in its facilities "across the board." For Manchester Tank specifically, extra funds would be put toward developing career training -- a measure the company is already planning.
"With training, we can basically take the next generation into the industrial workforce," Manchester Tank General Manager Corrie Eifert said. "I think that's one of the biggest areas of improvement we need to do as a nation."
Eifert said legislators can help the trend by passing training program incentives for businesses. Such incentives, he said, could help businesses acquire equipment and training personnel.
Right now, Eifert said, Manchester Tank is essentially always hiring.
"You have people out there that just don't think they can work in a manufacturing job because they don't know how to weld or run a machine," said Keith Norris, Manchester Tank operations manager. "We have a lot of people that come in at an entry level. We definitely make training available to anybody we have.
"There's a balance to it. We can't take on more business without the workforce behind it."
LaHood has voiced his support for proposals that cut the federal corporate tax rate, such as U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan's Better Way agenda, which would reduce the rate from 35 to 20 percent.
"We need to be focused all the time on how we grow the economy in the private sector," LaHood said. "Getting government out of the way; letting the private sector flourish; having a competitive tax code in place, which we don't right now; and having the proper training for those workers is vitally important."