Decisions made hundreds of miles away can drastically impact the fortunes of a community.
And when government makes one of those pronouncements, it can be easy for bureaucrats sitting in an office in Washington, D.C., to forget that there are people behind the consequences of those decisions.
Such is the case with NLMK Pennsylvania.
The decision to impose tariffs on some imported goods, while a policy that is in part a correction of what has been an unfair advantage for some foreign manufacturers, is not a black-and-white issue when it comes to the steel trade.
NLMK has applied for an exemption to the steel tariffs. The company imports steel slabs from Russia, which means that now it is paying huge amounts of money in tariffs.
NLMK uses that steel to create other products, which are manufactured and finished in plants in Farrell and Sharon.
So while an argument about trade and tariffs in Washington might be based simply on theory, in this community, this issue is personal.
It is about jobs, and a community’s future.
NLMK has been up front — it cannot continue to compensate for the huge costs imposed by the tariffs. And if there is no relief, the company cannot guarantee the future of the Farrell or Sharon plants.
That would directly affect hundreds of local jobs. And you can imagine the effect that would have on this community.
But, unfortunately, all of this is happening during an election season — and a relatively aggressive one at that. Some of the challengers and incumbents for those Washington jobs seem to be more interested in hurling barbs than acting quickly to help a community.
What we need now from our leadership in Washington is action, not more campaigning.
And U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly is busy doing just that.
He has spoken to the president and vice president and made his way to the Commerce Department, where a request for an exemption from the tariffs for NLMK sits waiting to be reviewed.
Those who run the agency say they are understaffed and they just have not gotten to every request yet.
But that is simply not acceptable.
And Kelly has told them so.
He knows why this matters, and he is at the forefront of pushing to get it done.
When we asked him for an update, he did not hesitate to give it.
His staff knew how important the question was to his constituents, and they got the message to him that our community needed to hear details on what action is being taken.
And we got them — right from him.
It is time to make an impression on our senators about the need to get on the ball and to communicate with the constituents they say they are fighting for in Washington about what their plan is to make sure NLMK stays right where it is.
Every election season is peppered with promises of how our leaders in Washington are there for the people they serve.
But when it comes to the heartland of our state — the areas where there is no flashy money or urban cocktail parties – they seem to be content with lip service and not, well, action.
We can fall for another round of promises or we can start calling our senators and anyone else who will listen about what we expect when it comes to this important issue.
After all, partisan bickering and identity politics are great for politicos, but wouldn’t it be so much nicer if there were a few more people really paying attention to what matters to the rest of us?
We will see how many of them are listening.
But for right now, our congressman gets an A for being there when his community needs him. We hope he stays on the case.
Our community’s future depends on it.