By ANNE HOLLIDAY
WESB/WBRR News Director
US Senator Bob Casey visited Zippo today and, after taking a tour of the plant, he talked with employees about taking steps to protect companies like Zippo.
He says passing the small business jobs bill is critically important, as is keeping companies like Zippo from continuing to be victims of international piracy, most of which is in China.
He said foreign competition and trade issues have hit Pennsylvania hard.
He said since 2001, 95,000 jobs have been lost in Pennsylvania because illegal activities in China.
Before the tour of the plant, Zippo president and CEO Greg Booth told Casey the company spends more money than it should have to in order to protect itself from piracy.
“We are a billion dollar brand, if you will. We’re not a billion dollar company,” Booth said. “So in order to protect this huge brand that’s well known across the globe. We spend an inordinate amount of money to do that.”
“We’re a smaller company so it’s a bigger percentage of our overall cost just to protect what we already own,” Booth added.
Booth said Zippo is trying to maintain jobs in America but "it's a tough row to hoe. We need support to remain competitive," adding that Chinese manufacturers can make a knock-off lighter for one-tenth of the cost it costs Zippo to make a lighter. "We need all the support we can get."
"It’s not a real complicated thing." Casey said. "It’s called enforce the law and crack down on cheaters. The Chinese are big cheaters."
Casey said, at a minimum, the departments of treasury and commerce need to enforce the laws so American companies are not unfairly disadvantaged.
Earlier in the day, Casey stopped in Warren, where he toured streetscape improvements. Casey successfully sponsored a $400,000 appropriation in FY2010 for the project.
The downtown Warren Streetscape renovation project is a $7.7 million urban renewal initiative. The project, which has been divided into phases, includes infrastructure improvements such as improving sidewalks, burying overhead utility lines, installing new street lighting and adding parking spots to the Midtown city parking lot. The projects also includes beautification projects like cleaning the riverbank, planting flowers and trees, installing a fountain and adding green space to the city.
The $400,000 appropriation that Senator Casey sponsored for the Warren streetscape renovation project in FY2010 funds phase 1A of the project, which concentrates on the triangular area bounded by Liberty Street, Second Avenue, Pennsylvania Avenue and Hickory Street.
Later, Casey headed to Coudersport where he discussed his support for a pirson recidivism prevention pilot program, that will serve Potter County Jail inmates and their families.
It would offer coordinated case management, counseling, job training, life skills and rug and alcohol treatment to male inmates and their families for six to 12 months during incarceration. Community-based services and follow-up would be provided for about six months after prison release.
Casey also discussed the challenges, as well as opportunities, faced by Potter County as drilling companies arrive in the area.
Pictured, top, Casey listens to Zippo president and CEO Greg Booth talk about fair trade issues as company attorney Jeff Duke and financial officer Rich Roupe listen in. Left, Tim Van Horn describes some of the emblem lighters on display in the Congress Street plant.