As they left his factory floor, a neat and orderly, 30,000-square-foot, wood- and metal-scented hall in Sonoma, Price Pump Co. president and CEO Bob Piazza said to the congressman he was showing around: “I bet you didn't know we existed.”
Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, acknowledged he hadn't.
“There are manufacturing operations throughout the Fifth Congressional District that none of us know about. You'd be astounded,” Thompson said during a “Congressional Dialogue” sponsored by the National Association of Manufacturers at the 82-year-old pump company on Eighth Street East.
In Sonoma County, 19,300 people were employed in manufacturing in December, or 10.5 percent of the total county work force. Of those, 10,900 workers were in the wine and food industries; the remaining 8,400 were in the durable goods sector, which includes computers and electronics.
Theirs is a sector under siege for years.
Piazza himself started to buy parts from China and have some manufacturing done there in 1999. Today, 75 percent of his metal castings come from there. “I didn't want to, but I had to stay in business,” he told Thompson.
The U.S. manufacturing sector lost six million jobs between 2000 and 2009, although it has shown signs of fledgling recovery since, adding about 570,000 back as some companies shift operations overseas back to the United States.
Thompson has a very low rating from the National Association of Manufacturers: 27 percent for his career, based on his votes on what the association considers key issues.
But for Piazza, a registered Republican, the event was fruitful even though no great problems were resolved or, visibly at least, policy points won.
“Now I know whenever I have an issue he'll know who's bringing it,” said Piazza, whose company sells pumps to the Navy and industries including the semiconductor and medical sectors. “He'll have a face to go with the problem.”