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62 PCB007 MAGAZINE I MARCH 2023 customers can keep you going. Now you're look- ing to grow, but it must be more methodical. If you're a larger com- pany, you might be able to do a greenfield start-up and exponentially leap- frog the technology. In some cases, that would be a wise thing for some of the larger companies to consider doing, especially for the capabil- ity lacking in North America. e good news is we're hearing from enough customers. We're seeing it in our sales that things are upward, and that's great. We're able to make some money and reinvest. I wish I could say I'm going to a whole new area, but I really can't do that. You can't go from being "three yards in a cloud of dust" to being a race car. Instead, you have to say, "I will do what I can to accelerate into the right places so I can go in the right direction, but I can't do every- thing." Do you want to be cutting edge or do you want to have a proven reliable technology? When you've been through as much as these smaller North American companies, you will try to move as fast as you can, to make up for a lot; at least now we can see a roadmap to get there. There's a well-used phrase in the industry: "It took 30 years to move all this business over to Asia. It won't come back in 30 months." Right. It's not just money and equipment. You can buy equipment, borrow or raise capital. Finding people to work will be another big gate for our industry. If you're in a manufactur- ing environment, it's tough to get people who want to learn a trade or an industry. You sim- ply can't walk in and be an expert 60 days later; we're doing fabrication. e assemblers are in a similar situation where employees must com- mit some time to it and be dedicated. I'm not seeing that level of long-term interest with the younger people coming through. It's more of a ever, a very sophisticated supply chain that requires products moving around the world and we still want the lower-cost prod- ucts, which means Asia will continue to be a very dominant partner. Certainly, Washington has figured that out; it needs more suppliers from North America and that requires investment. Again, that's a positive thing. In many ways, we're in far better shape now than we were 10 years ago, and the trajec- tory is far better than it has been for a long time. You said that the trajectory is getting better. Is it upward yet? Yes, for certain markets. e military/defense area is upward. I can't speak for automotive, but I believe it's upward. If you're in regular industrial manufacturing or consumer prod- ucts, you're probably not seeing it, but I'm guessing that most of that North American market is probably brokering a lot of stuff to be economical. We're more into the positive range than we have been for a long time. My customers are all very bullish about the next few years and are making decent invest- ments in their companies. On the manufactur- ing side, it's gone from, "Who's going out of business and what auction am I going to next?" to looking at, "How can I grow my business and invest properly? I'm in a better position because I'm actually making some money now and I can afford to do that." There has to be some amount of pressure to grow, improve your capabilities, and meet new customer demands to maintain that momentum. What pressures are you feeling? If you're a single-facility company, you can't do everything, so you find a niche where your Peter Bigelow

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