The Rural Side of Trade and Energy, Article in AGWEEK

Excerpt from article by Annette Tait and Katy "Kate" Kassian


Trade. Energy. Higher education. Legislation. They're not just big-city topics.

We were recently encouraged by the large part rural people and places play in the "big picture" after hearing panelists discuss these topics at the Greater North Dakota Chamber Policy Summit.

All are important, but two of the four — trade and energy — particularly relate to rural economies.


It's easy to think of trade as high-level, multimillion dollar deals between hot-shot executives. Sure, that's part of it. But not all.

Trade goes rural in export deals for agricultural and specialty products and products made by small manufacturers, and the option for small manufacturers to import cost-effective quality materials.

Export benefits are apparent — more viable markets make a huge difference to rural areas that depend on the success of local agriculture and small manufacturing. Dollars earned by those enterprises continue to benefit local communities through wages, purchases, taxation and donations to local schools, emergency services and charities.

What may not be immediately clear are the benefits of importing materials, especially with concerns about American jobs being lost to overseas workers.

Thomas Shorma of WCCO Belting Inc. in Wahpeton, N.D., population 7,830, made a solid case for his company's switch to imported textiles. Upon learning his company's textile vendor was near bankruptcy, Shorma began researching new sources for fabric used in the production process. He discovered there was none to be found in the U.S. — the industry had dried up.

What he did find was an overseas source that offered better quality at a lower price.

The viability of importing was brought home when Shorma's chief financial officer voiced concern about jobs moving out of the country. Shorma's response?

"You don't understand — if we don't, our jobs will be moving out of the U.S."

Without the imported fabric, WCCO would not have been able to continue producing its products, which would have led to downsizing — lost jobs, and a huge economic loss to the rural economy.

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