The Right Call

March 22, 2004
Unquestionably, it will take an exceptional leader to guide the industry through these rough waters in the years to come.

You’ll see in our news pages this month the American Foundry Society has appointed Gerald G. Call as its new executive vice president, effective on May1. Call will be working in tandem with current executive vice president Dwight Barnhard during a transitionary period to start on March 15. Congratulations and well wishes are due Mr. Call upon his selection for the job, and to Mr. Barnhard upon his imminent return to ‘private’ life.

We’ll get back to the challenges Call will face shortly, but here I must pause a moment to recognize the extraordinary job Dwight Barnhard has done as AFS executive these last four years. There’s a phrase that comes to my mind when I talk with Dwight or see him at work. That phrase is “leadership with grace,” and though I’ve used these words about him before, I gladly use them again. If the measure of an industry can be gleaned by knowing those who lead it and represent it, then people like Dwight make metalcasting the gold standard. We offer him our gratitude for all he’s done for this industry and wish him well as he returns to Superior Aluminum and Independence, MO.

In a sense, Gerald Call is lucky. He’s lucky because his industry has many individuals who, like Barnhard, give unselfishly of their time, knowledge, and dedication in order to further this industry’s goals and improve its prospects. I can think of many metalcasting leaders who’d leave their guts on the playing field if it helped the industry or one of their colleagues.

That’s more than just a benchmark. It’s a hallmark. And Call, with his 30 years in metalcasting, is surely aware he will need this kind of support for his tenure to be a successful one. He will take the reins of this industry’s largest society at a time that posterity may some day judge to be a watershed moment.

Significant issues regarding the future of metalcasting in this country abound:

  • Our foundry population has been shrinking for decades.
  • High medical insurance costs are stifling job growth and making it impossible for employers, and especially small businesses, to attract, then adequately cover, workers.
  • Imports of castings from foreign countries are having a significant effect on volumes here at home. Often, these imports come from countries that refuse to let their currencies float freely against the U.S. dollar, or that offer state support prop up their factories, or who have no burdensome environmental regulations with which to comply, etc.
  • OSHA and EPA sometimes apply regulations based on bad politics rather than good science. Reasonable regulations are reasonable; unreasonable ones are bankrupting. The unreasonable ones need to be systematically challenged.
  • Our legislative and executive branches of government don’t know nearly enough about what we do, our role in the national economy, and our impact on national security. Now that manufacturing job loss has ascended as a national political issue, maybe the situation will improve.

Each is an important issue. But, as all who read this will know, this is just the short list, and it makes no mention of the day-to-day business of running the society.

Unquestionably, it will take an exceptional leader to guide the industry through these rough waters in the years to come. But the search/selection team at AFS is made up of people whose careers would not have gone so far if they couldn’t recognize talent when they saw it.

So congratulations again, Mr. Call. We hope your transition will be a smooth one and that you’ll let us know if there’s some way we can help. At the very least, we hope you’ll accept our invitation to pen a Guest Commentary in a future issue outlining your goals for the society.