(WOOSTER, Ohio)— On Tuesday, September 27th Federal, state and local policy makers and economic development officials had an opportunity to learn about Ohio’s fire and emergency equipment industry which, apart from being critical to public safety, is also very important to the state’s economy.
Eight Ohio companies representing Ohio’s fire and emergency services manufacturers and suppliers hosted an event at the Akron Brass Company to showcase and illustrate the quality products made in the state and used to protect lives all over the world. There are 17 Ohio member companies involved in manufacturing and distribution for the fire and emergency equipment industry.
“The fire and emergency equipment industry in Ohio makes a significant economic contribution to our state in terms of productivity, job creation and taxes paid in addition to the job it performs in our communities,” Tom Hudak, President for Akron Brass and a representative of the Fire Equipment Manufacturers and Services Association and the Fire Apparatus Manufacturers Association said. “We believe it is important for our elected officials at all levels to understand what this industry means — not only to the safety of our citizens and emergency responders, but also to Ohio’s economy.”
Among other things, the event gave manufacturers the opportunity to demonstrate their products and impress upon government leaders how critical it is for our communities to support those locally owned manufacturers or “Buy Ohio” when making equipment purchases. Among the Ohio companies that took part in the event are: Action Coupling & Equipment, Holmesville; Akron Brass, Wooster; Fire Safety International (FSI), Sheffield Lake; Honeywell First Responder Products, Dayton, Horton Emergency Vehicles, Grove City; Sutphen Corporation, Amlin; Lion, Dayton; Will-Burt Company, Orrville.
Along with Hudak, speakers included Chief Mike Warner, President of the Ohio Fire Chiefs Association & Chief of Concord Twp. Fire and Rescue; John Granby, Vice President of Government Relations with Lion & Co-Chairman of FAMA / FEMSA Government Affairs Committee; Congresswoman Betty Sutton, 13th Congressional District and Congressman Jim Renacci, 16th Congressional District.
One important message from today’s event involved the critical situation of funding for fire equipment from the federal Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) program. The AFG provides funding to the network of first responders across the country and equips them to save lives in the event of daily tragedies, natural disasters and catastrophic events.
Chief Warner told the audience, which included representatives from a number of Ohio’s Congressional offices, that officials in Washington play a critical role in helping local emergency responders access the tools they need through the program. “All of us need to take active roles in contacting our local congressional leaders urging their support to continue funding of the AFG and SAFER programs at their current level of $405 million dollars,” said Warner.
The AFG program historically was funded at nearly 70 percent of its authorized $1 billion level but has seen regular cuts in recent years with President Obama’s FY2012 requested budget of $250 million. The President’s proposed budget cut is a reduction of nearly 40 percent.
The federal funding cuts impact local fire and EMS departments with respect to their ability to purchase the equipment and apparatus necessary to fight fires and respond to emergencies in a safe and effective manner.
Congresswoman Betty Sutton spoke about the importance of protecting funding levels for the fire safety programs and why we must work to create new jobs within this critical industry. “It is important for you to know that you have representatives in Congress who appreciate the value of your contributions and who will fight just as hard for you and what you do as you fight to keep us safe,” stated Congresswoman Sutton.
Having experience as a firefighter, Congressman Jim Renacci conveyed his support of the fire industry to the audience which also included local fire chiefs. “I am a big supporter of firefighters,” said the Congressman. He went on to say, “Some of the fire trucks are 15 to 20 years old and they need to be updated. If we are going to send people into burning buildings, they have to have the right equipment necessary to make sure they’re safe.” He closed by committing to always giving back to the communities and first responders and to be their voice as a member in Congress.