Full Circle

When IPC released a statement this week touting Congress’s recognition of the “vital role of the printed board industry in ensuring national security,” it brought a smile to my face.

Years ago – at least 15 – when I was just a staff flunky at IPC, we rejoiced when, after hundreds of thousands of dollars and who-knows how many man-hours of time, the US House passed a resolution recognizing printed wiring board manufacturers as an industry critical to the well being and security of the United States. This is an important first step, we convinced ourselves. Now, Congress will really get behind us, we cheered, hopefully.

A few years later, more or less the entire industry moved to China. Congress didn’t say a word.

You see, we also spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to help bring the Printed Circuit Investment Act of 1997, a bill that was to cut equipment depreciation from five years to three, to the floor, where it died a quick death.

Still, we enjoyed the opportunity to rub shoulders with legislators was so enticing, IPC tried again in 1999 and 2001.

No dice.

In fact, Congress didn’t act until March 11, 2002, six months to the day after planes flew into buildings across the Eastern seaboard.

Are printed circuit boards vital to American security? No question. Does Congress really give a hoot? Probably not. After all, if they didn’t when the US was the leading PCB industry in the world, why would they now? After 15 years or so of trying, have we learned anything about how Congress works? By all evidence, no.

But we can dream.

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About Mike

Mike Buetow is president of the Printed Circuit Engineering Association (pcea.net). He previously was editor-in-chief of Circuits Assembly magazine, the leading publication for electronics manufacturing, and PCD&F, the leading publication for printed circuit design and fabrication. He spent 21 years as vice president and editorial director of UP Media Group, for which he oversaw all editorial and production aspects. He has more than 30 years' experience in the electronics industry, including six years at IPC, an electronics trade association, at which he was a technical projects manager and communications director. He has also held editorial positions at SMT Magazine, community newspapers and in book publishing. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois. Follow Mike on Twitter: @mikebuetow

3 thoughts on “Full Circle

  1. Well, you pushed my button…. (generally agreed with your assessment)

    Congress …
    75% of em.. not much better informed on issues than any reasonably informed citizen.
    and certainly not any smarter….
    and dealing with issues with overly simplistic perspectives –
    reasoning: because they would be overwhelmed (volume of issues and level of details).
    so they view themselves with two options .. a) focus on just a few items or b) “gloss over” a larger number of issues.
    in my view.. this group is willing to work on “smaller” issues (by default) .. but without the brains/stature/energy required to make wise things happen.

    They accomplish half measures in vague directions.
    (it has to be demoralizing to work under these conditions)

    remaining 25%..

    10% are less informed and less intelligent than average person on the street (the ones where you “gotta wonder” how they got there and if they can tie their shoes)
    They don’t know enough to be demoralized…

    10% better informed than above 85%.. and fighting a heroic fight to make the rest move in what they perceive as the “correct direction”…
    Basically they think of themselves as herding cats (populace and peers) ….
    You don’t really want to know what they think of the “person on the street”.. (not flattering)
    If you watch many of Jay Leno’s “Jay Walk all stars” … you may start to sympathize.
    Not a very flattering image of the average American…

    remaining 5%.
    Have the means (stature), brains, information.. but are focused on “more important things”.
    Getting this group’s attention with “smaller” issues.. very hard.

    as you stated… we can dream

  2. We can recognize many things.

    Recognition does little but inflate fears and build egos.

    However, nothing will happen until dollars are committed and spent to upgrade our technology, manufacturing capabilities, educate th enginners needed, and provide the security (protect our intellectual property and know-how) necessary to prevent competitive nations from eliminating any advanmtage that we may have or develop.

    The emphasis is on the word “spent”.

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