Congressman spends recess visiting Oregon-based companies

Photo Credit: REVIEW PHOTO: SAUNDRA SORENSON - Darrell Baker, the president and CEO of Stilwell Baker, Inc., gives U.S. Congressman Kurt Schrader a tour of his company Monday during Schraders Made in Oregon manufacturing tour.Congressman Kurt Schrader is spending the next couple of weeks touring Oregon-based businesses and asking, “What do I need to know to make your lives easier?”

“We're trying to see a variety of different businesses and cover different sectors,” Schrader said this week during a stop at Lake Oswego-based Stilwell Baker Inc. The Democrat from Oregon's 5th Congressional District said he was paying particular attention to the businesses that develop, manufacture and process products in the state.

In addition to Stilwell Baker, Schrader planned visits to the beverage company General Distributors, Inc. in Oregon City; GEM Equipment, Inc. in Woodburn, BPM Physical Therapy in Salem and a handful of other companies. His recess visit to the district will also include a variety of speaking engagements and the dedication of a new Veterans of Foreign Wars post in Lake Oswego.

Stilwell Baker is an engineering and manufacturing firm that has made custom electronics, specifically for government and aerospace markets, since 1993. Schrader met with company officials, toured their facilities on Rosewood Street and talked about their efforts to attract and keep clients that might otherwise have given their business to overseas competitors in an effort to keep operations costs down.

Darrel Baker, Stilwell Baker's president and CEO, told Schrader there are a lot of associated costs for businesses outsourcing production overseas.

“We’ve done a number of ‘rescues,’ where (a business has) gone to China and they didn’t get what they thought they were going to get,” Baker said. The staff at Stilwell Baker often acts as "fixers," he said, especially for companies that design devices as complex as automated flight control systems.

Baker also explained that much of what Stilwell Baker does now is “reverse engineering” — figuring out how to design and manufacture replacement parts for government and military equipment that may be decades old, and which may lack proper documentation.

“We get calls from companies (where) capital equipment replacement is not happening,” Baker said.

Schrader heard from Stilwell Baker management about unique obstacles the company has to job growth, including what they view as sometimes inflexible Federal Aviation Administration regulations.

Schrader agreed that the regulatory structure often lags behind technology and innovation, and he cited prohibitive telecommunications and Internet regulations as examples.

Stating his intent to “get out of the way and let you guys create jobs,” Schrader said he was ultimately optimistic about the state of manufacturing in Oregon.

“Stilwell Baker is an excellent example of a company that is leading-edge in innovation and quality control,” Schrader said. “It’s doing things that other companies, other countries — or even other states — can't imagine.

“Manufacturing's a big deal in Oregon, and it's a big deal in this district,” Schrader said. “Other states are bleeding manufacturing. But we're actually starting to see — as we talked about with (Stilwell Baker) — onshoring, and manufacturing coming back. So I wanted to stay in touch with how we best make that happen and avoid the unintended consequences of pushing stuff overseas.”

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