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NAM Releases a Plan for Significant Infrastructure Investment

From NAM (National Association of Manufacturers) By Michael Short

National Association of Manufacturers President and CEO Jay Timmons released the following statement ahead of tomorrow’s White House infrastructure meeting:

“Every year, America is falling further behind on infrastructure. Investment is currently only one-third of what it was in 1960, and without action on infrastructure, we will lose 5.8 million jobs by 2040. Any serious legislative proposal must fix the Highway Trust Fund—through various user fees—and be transformational in its scope so that manufacturers and the country are positioned for future success. That’s why manufacturers are calling for at least $1 trillion in much needed new investment. Millions of jobs and our nation’s competitiveness are at stake, and it is time for our elected leaders to act.”

Link to NAM’s Press Release

In February, the NAM released “Building to Win”—an ambitious initiative to revitalize our nation’s failing infrastructure. Originally released ahead of the 2016 elections, the updated proposal serves as a blueprint to repair our roads, bridges, rails, airports, ports and waterways and revolutionize the infrastructure that makes the American Dream possible. It represents manufacturers’ vision for the path forward—one that will enhance the competitiveness of manufacturers and improve the lives of manufacturing workers and all Americans.

Read NAM’s report Building to Win

 

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#TBT To Our Annual Luncheon and Expo

A few weeks ago, on November 18, the Council held its annual Luncheon and Expo with our keynote speaker Scott P. Schloegel, Senior Vice President and Chief of Staff of the Export-Import Bank. The event was a big hit and although we’ve already posted plenty of photos on our Facebook page, we thought we’d share some pics here for anyone who connects with us through our blog:

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Great Boston Molasses Flood: Secrets Revealed?

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It’s one of the strangest tragedies in American history, the sort of thing that should only happen in fiction yet somehow happened in real life. On January 15, 1919 the North End area of Boston, Massachusetts a storage tank burst and a giant wave of molasses flooded out into the streets at 35 miles per hour. 21 people were killed and another 150 were injured. To this day residents swear that on hot days you can still smell the molasses in the air.

The event has become part of American folklore and a case study for engineering students. Bearly 100 years later there is still no consenus for why the disaster was so deadly, but a new study from Harvard though suggests that temperature played a large part in it. By studying the effects of cold weather on molasses, the researchers determined that the disaster was made more deadly in the cold winter weather than it would have in the summer season. When it first left the tank the syrup would’ve moved quickly enough to cover several blocks before the cold air thickened it into a hard sticky goo that left many residents trapped in it. Read more on the study in the New York Times.

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Judge Blocks New Overtime Rule

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On Tuesday, November 22, just before Thanksgiving U.S. District Court Judge Mazzant issued a nationwide injunction preventing the implementation of the Department of Labor’s Overtime Rule previously set to take effect on December. The Court found that the Department of Labor had likely exceeded its statutory authority in setting a salary threshold higher than necessary to exempt “any employee employed in a bona fide executive, administrative, or professional capacity.” Because the current salary threshold increase was unlawful under the plain meaning of the statute, the Department of Labor “also lacks the authority to implement the automatic updating mechanism.”

While the Department of Labor is likely to appeal the decision, the timing is such that the fate of the overtime rule is now in the hands of the 115th Congress and the incoming Trump Administration. Until this rule is officially withdrawn by the Department of Labor or no appeal of the case is sought, it could come back again with an unfavorable ruling on appeal. Read the full press release from NAM.

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Hudson Valley Jobs Up in October

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October job numbers for the Hudson Valley have been released, and they’re largely positive. The New York State Department of Labor reports:

For the 12-month period ending in October 2016, private sector employment in the Hudson Valley increased by 10,300 or 1.3 percent, to 797,300. Jobs were added in educational and health services (+7,500), professional and business services (+2,100), trade, transportation and utilities (+1,900), and leisure and hospitality (+1,600). Job losses were greatest in financial activities (-1,100), manufacturing (-1,000), and information (-500). The government sector added 200 jobs over the period.

In October 2016, the region’s private sector job growth continued its positive trend growing by 1.3 percent year over year. However, this was the region’s weakest year-over-year increase in 2016. The education and health service sector continued to perform well. Growth in education and health services accelerated sharply last year (+3.5%) and is on pace to match that this year.. Employment growth in the region’s leisure and hospitality sector was also strong – up 1.9 percent year-over-year.

Within the region, year-over-year job growth was fastest in the Kingston MSA (+2.5 percent), followed by Sullivan County (+1.5 percent), the Dutchess-Putnam MSA (+1.4 percent), and the Orange-Rockland-Westchester labor market area (+1.2 percent).

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U.S. Manufacturing Output Rises-Again

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Output at U.S. manufacturers rose in October, marking the second such monthly increase in a row. Industry experts hope this is a sign the industry is gradually recovering. Production at factories accounts for 75% of all output, and saw an increase of 0.2 percent for a second month, according to a Federal Reserve report showed. Warmer temperatures led to a drop in utility use, resulting in little change to total industrial production, which also includes mining. Factories are benefiting from steady household spending growth at the same time the drag on industrial output from the oil sector wanes as prices recover and drillers employ more rigs. However, a bigger boost to manufacturing is unlikely without stronger export markets and more domestic business investment. Read more at Bloomberg.

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New York State Business Activity Stabilizes

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At the tail end of a tumultuous year New York’s manufacturing sector delivered some good news. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s monthly report on manufacturing business activity stabilized in the state with the headline general business conditions index climbing out of negative territory for the first time in four months, rising eight points to 1.5. The new orders and shipments indexes also turned positive, rising to 3.1 and 8.5, respectively. Still, signs of economic trouble remained. Labor market conditions are still weak, with the number of employees and average workweek indexes both at -10.9. The inventories index fell eleven points to -23.6, pointing to a marked decline in inventory levels. Although price indexes were lower, they remained positive, suggesting a slower pace of growth in both input prices and selling prices. Indexes for the six-month outlook conveyed somewhat less optimism about future conditions than in October.

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Can the Internet of Things Boost the Economy?

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That’s the question Craig Torres sets out to answer for New Equipment Digest. As he summarizes the issue:

In the world of making everyday life more digital, something is starting to tip. You can see it at Noyes Air Conditioning Inc. on Monday mornings.

They used to be a nightmare, as recently as 2013, says General Manager Chris Kaufman in Gaithersburg, Maryland. Seventy technicians would dump a week’s worth of service tickets on accountants who’d then scramble to get invoices and payroll out. It was “really killing us,” Kaufman said. Then he found Canvas Solutions Inc., a startup that specializes in online workflow documentation. Now, everything’s done on iPads and the cloud.

That’s just one example of how technology is starting to reach into neglected corners of the economy — as it’s long promised to do. From plumbers’ trucks to public transportation, and even those endless forms you fill out before seeing a doctor, startup companies are finding ways to digitize ordinary tasks that have escaped the attention of giants such as Amazon.com Inc. and Microsoft Corp.

By doing so, they might even revive U.S. productivity, healing one of the deepest wounds of the Great Recession — one frequently lamented by Federal Reserve board members, who wrap up a two-day policy meeting today. Some economists doubt the latest tech gimmicks are up to that task, and debate is raging on the subject. But there’s plenty of money lined up behind the techno-optimists, who say the Internet of Things and its spinoffs are only just getting going.

We previously wrote about the Internet of Things in HV MFG, have a look. You can Read the full Digets article here.

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Paralyzed Monkeys Walk again with Wireless Brain-Spine Interface

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Swiss scientists have helped monkeys with spinal cord injuries regain control of non-functioning limbs in research which might one day lead to paralyzed people being able to walk again. The scientists, who treated the monkeys with a neuroprosthetic interface that acted as a wireless bridge between the brain and spine, say they have started small feasibility studies in humans to trial some components. Read more.

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Election Day 2016: Light at the End of the Tunnel

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The grueling election year is down to its final hours, now all that’s left is for the people to cast their vote. In addition to the Presidential race, voters in New York’s 19th congressional district will decide whether to send Democrat Zephyr Teachout or Republican John Faso to Congress. Faso is running a traditional Republican campaign and has the endorsement business groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, as well as MANUPAC, the Political Action Committee of the state’s manufacturers. Teachout staged an unsuccessful primary challenge from the left against Governor Andrew Cuomo in 2014 and Bernie Sanders of Vermont has endorsed her and campaigned for her. Voters in the Hudson Valley will also be casting their ballots two closely watched State Senate races for the 40th and 41st districts. These races will go a long way towards determining if Democrats gain full control of the State Government.

Click here to find your polling place.

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ISM Manufacturing Index October 2016

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The Institute of Supply Management reported that U.S. manufacturing increased 0.4 percent in October, bringing the ISM Manufacturing Index to 51.9. The result is in keeping with many economists’ predictions. The report said respondents had mostly positive comments and cited a “favorable economy and steady sales, with some exceptions.” These numbers come as economic activity in the manufacturing sector expanded in October. The overall economy grew for the 89th consecutive month, according to the report. Read more about it.

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The Multifactor Productivity Problem

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For today’s food for thought, I direct you to this column from Bloomberg: “Manfacturing’s Productivity Myth,” which takes issue with the claim that US Manufacturers have gotten more productive by arguing that this claim fails to take into account Multifactor Productivity.

“The fact that durable goods multifactor productivity in 1987 was 69 and non-durables’ was 96 means not that durable-goods manufacturers were less productive than non-durables manufacturers in 1987 but that their productivity increased a lot more from then through the index year of 2009. Which I know is a little confusing, but the alternative — charting year-over-year changes in the productivity index — makes it harder to see trends.

So durable-goods manufacturing saw big multifactor-productivity gains in the 1990s that appear to have stalled out just over a decade ago, while non-durables productivity hasn’t really budged much over the past three decades. Non-durables are things such as food, clothes, chemicals, paper products and plastics.”

Read the whole thing.

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Hudson Valley Job Market Has Bright September

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In a happy change of pace, the New York State Department of Labor’s latest report on unemployment in the Hudson Valley shows largely positive news across the board. For September 2016 the region’s private sector job count reached 793,000, a record high for the month. Private sector job growth was broad-based, with seven of nine sectors recording job gains. Aided by a strong healthcare component, the region’s educational and health services sector continued its positive trend, growing by 3.8 percent year-over-year. That’s the strongest September growth since 1999. After an unimpressive August (+2.1 percent), job count in the natural resources, mining, and construction sector rebounded nicely with a growth of 4.4 percent in September.

Of the 10 labor market regions in New York State, private sector job growth in the Hudson Valley (1.9 percent) was second only to NYC (+2.3 percent). Within the region, year-over-year, job growth was fastest in the Kingston MSA (+4.0 percent), followed by the Orange-Rockland-Westchester labor market area (+1.8 percent), the Dutchess-Putnam MSA (+1.5 percent), and Sullivan County (+1.0 percent).

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Where We’re Going We Don’t Need Helmets

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Ordinarily BMW debuting a new motorcycle concept wouldn’t be particularly newsworthy, but the storied manufacturer had an ace up its sleeve this month when it revealed a new model out fitted with artificial intelligence safety technology so advanced that riders won’t need to wear a helmet.

The BMW Motorrad Vision Next 100 motorcycle is the latest incarnation of BMW’s Vision Next series, which celebrates 100 years of the German brand with forward-looking concept vehicles. The group has been hosting events around the world this year to debut each new concept in a different city, with this unveiling happening in California. The bike comes equipped with self-balancing systems to keep it upright both when standing and in motion. Several systems—one BMW calls a “Digital Companion,” which offers riding advice and adjustment ideas to optimize the experience, and one called “The Visor,” which is a pair of glasses that span the entire field of vision and are controlled by eye movements—correlate to return active feedback about road conditions to the rider while adjusting the ride of the bike continuously depending on the rider’s driving style.1x-1

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NY Fed Survey: Business is Down, but For How Long?

federal reserve bank of new york

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York has released the results of its monthly manufacturing  survey. The survey showed that business activity continued to decline in New York. The headline general business conditions index slipped five points to -6.8. The new orders index edged up but remained negative at -5.6, indicating an ongoing drop in orders, and the shipments index increased to -0.6, meaning shipments were essentially flat. Labor market conditions remained weak, with both employment levels and the average workweek reported as lower. Price indexes increased somewhat, and continued to signal moderate input price increases and a slight increase in selling prices. On the bright side, indexes for the six-month outlook suggested that manufacturing firms expect conditions to improve in the months ahead.

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What do this Year’s Nobel Laureate Scientists Have in Common?

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This year, six of the scientists receiving the Nobel Prize were associated with American universities. All of them are immigrants. In a year that has seen a surge in nativism in the U.S. (as well as abroad) the ordinarily mundane fact that none of America’s Nobel Laureate’s this year were born in America takes on a political subtext. Already some are using their newfound platform to speak out about the importance of open borders. The Christian Science Monitor reports:

“I think the resounding message that should go out all around the world is that science is global,” Sir James Fraser Stoddart, a winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry and a professor at Northwestern University, who was born in Scotland, told The Hill. “It’s particularly pertinent to have these discussions in view of the political climate on both sides of the pond at the moment…. I think the United States is what it is today largely because of open borders.”

The laureate told The Guardian that his research group at Northwestern University has students and scientists from a dozen different countries and that bringing in international talent raises the bar overall.

“I got colleagues saying ‘Don’t you know that our people are better?’ ” he said of his early career in Britain. “When you get people from Messina or Madrid moving to a cold place like Sheffield, they’re serious about science…. It’s better for everyone.”

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Manufacturing Job Numbers Disappoint, Again

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Despite the rebound in sentiment and activity seen in other measures, manufacturing employment fell for the second month in a row, NAM Reports. There was some hope that job growth might stabilize in this report. Instead, manufacturers lost 13,000 workers on net in September, extending the loss of 16,000 from August. More importantly, and more troubling, manufacturing employment decreased by 58,000 year-to-date, suggesting continuing cautiousness among manufacturing business leaders to add workers in light of lingering weaknesses in the global economy.

Additional data was less pessimistic, but not particularly celebratory. Durable and nondurable goods firms shed 11,000 and 2,000 workers in September, respectively. The largest declines were seen in the food manufacturing (down 4,300), transportation equipment (down 4,200, including a 3,100 decline for motor vehicles and parts), furniture and related products (down 1,700), wood products (down 1,600), computer and electronic products (down 1,500) and fabricated metal products (down 1,500) sectors. In contrast, there were employment gains in September for miscellaneous nondurable goods (up 1,300), nonmetallic mineral products (up 1,300) and textile product mills (up 1,200), among others. Despite the drop in hiring for the month, average weekly earnings in the manufacturing sector moved higher, up from $1,058.85 in August to $1,064.71 in September. On a year-over-year basis, average weekly earnings have increased from $1,031.65 in September 2015, up 3.2 percent for the 12-month period. Average weekly hours were also up slightly, rising from 40.6 hours to 40.7 hours, with average overtime hours unchanged at 3.3 hours.

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Manufacturing Day is Almost Here

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Tomorrow is Manufacturing Day, our favorite day of the year!

Manufacturing Day is a nationwide event organized each year by the National Association of Manufacturers, NIST and other affiliates. It’s goal is to promote the great benefits of a career in manufacturing and demonstrate our industry’s value to the U.S. economy. You can read more on our website.

And don’t forget to check out the official Manufacturing Day website. We’ll post pictures of some of the events. Good luck to everyone who’s participating!

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Google Tries out AI

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Google is one of the most valuable companies on Earth, it’s become so synonymous with internet searches that its name is now a verb for the procedure, its future would seem secure. But in this high tech world nothing is certain, and Google is bracing for the possibility that its core business of internet searches might be displaced by the growing popularity of apps. To counter this the company is developing a number of new devices, including a new type of AI that the company hopes will develop into something like the talking computer from Star Trek, an all purpose digital assistant. Read more about it at the NY Times.

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Why He Brought Back Manufacturing

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Marketplace.org recently spoke to Matt Turpin, a small electronics manufacturer in Baltimore. The reason for the interview was Turpin’s company Zentech has bucked conventional wisdom and actually relocated manufacturing work from Asia to the US:

“We’ve brought back probably four projects in the past two years,” he said. There are “probably 30 people associated with those projects.”

How’d he do it? First, “the level of automation has increased dramatically,” Turpin said. “What used to take two to three hours to build now can be built in under 10 minutes.”

So if products don’t require much labor, then cheap Chinese labor isn’t that important.

Second, labor in China isn’t so cheap anymore.

Those two factors mean the number of manufacturing jobs leaving the United States now equals the number of jobs coming back, roughly, and it’s been holding constant for the past year or so.

Read more

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New 3D Printing Frontier: Footwear?

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Imagine needing a new pair of shoes, only instead of heading to the mall you pick out your customized design online and then use your smartphone to scan your foot’s dimensions and send them to a manufacturer who will then run a made to order pair of sneakers, sized and designed perfectly just for you, off their 3D printer. It sounds a little like the Jetsons, but that’s exactly what a startup is trying to do with an app and 100 printers. It’s called Feetz, and you can read more about it and the woman running it here.

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Top 5 STEM Inspiring Movies

The weekend’s just around the corner, so for today’s blog post we thought it would be fun to make a Top 5 list of movies focusing on STEM topics that can inspire interest in the topic in viewers young and old alike. So, in no particular order:

Apollo 13: From director Ron Howard, this dramatization of the failed Apollo 13 lunar mission stars Tom Hanks, Bill Paxton, and Kevin Bacon as the three astronauts on the ill-fated expedition. A love letter to American ingenuity and space exploration, it offers an inspirational tale of what scientists and mathematicians can accomplish.

Jurassic Park: Steven Spielberg’s dinosaur epic still packs a wallop more than 20 years later. The much imitated story about an exclusive theme park where guests can see real living dinosaurs can raise interest in two different STEM fields. All the talk of cloning dinosaurs can inspire an interest in genetics, while the two archaeologist leads have captured many viewers’ imaginations. Laura Dern’s down-to-Earth Dr. Ellie Sattler has already become something of a role model for women in the field.

A Beautiful Mind: Another from director Ron Howard. This biopic of the esteemed mathematician and Nobel laureate John Nash from his college years through his cryptology work for the Pentagon to his recieving the Nobel Prize in Economics, all while suffering from paranoid schizophrenia. This movie deserves praise just for making complex mathematics engrossing for average viewers.

Big Hero 6: It’s hard to think of a better advertisement for robotics than this charming Disney film. Focusing on a team of kid and teen scientists who, along with the lovable healthcare robot Baymax, become superheroes to save their city, this is bound to inspire audiences of all ages.

Temple Grandin: Claire Danes won an Emmy for her portrayal of the world renowned inventor and advocate. Diagnosed with Autism at a young age, the film follows Grandin’s life as she works towards a degree in Animal Science, developing more humane ways of handling livestock, and ultimately becoming an advocate on behalf of the autistic.

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NY Fed Report: Business Activity Down

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Business activity decreased in New York State, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s Empire State Manufacturing Survey for September 2016. The headline general business conditions index held below zero, and was little changed at -2.0. The new orders index fell eight points to -7.5 and the shipments index fell eighteen points to -9.4—developments that pointed to a marked decline in both orders and shipments. The labor market took a beating as well, with both employment levels and the average workweek reported as lower. On the brighter side, indexes for the six-month outlook suggested that firms generally expect conditions to improve in the months ahead. Read the full report.

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Could China’s Manufacturing Future be in Doubt?

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For decades now China has loomed over America’s manufacturers, seemingly pulling away jobs, orders, and business with its promises of cheap, productive labor. That might be beginning to change, at least according to an Op-Ed in the Washington Post by Vivek Wadhwa, a Distinguished Fellow and professor at Carnegie Mellon University of Engineering. Wadhwa argues that China’s advantages have been undercut by technological advantages. Robots cost the same in China as they do in America, but China faces a shortage of skilled laborers who are needed to run the new manufacturing technology. This gives the US and Europe an opening to reclaim manufacturing jobs, provided they are able to adapt to the new demands of the industry faster than China.

“China has made this a national priority and is making massive investments. Just one province, Guangdong, committed to spending $150 billion to equip its factories with industrial robots and create two centers dedicated to advanced automation. But no matter how much money it spends, China simply can’t win with next-generation manufacturing. It built its dominance in manufacturing by offering massive subsidies, cheap labor and lax regulations. With technologies such as robotics and 3-D printing, it has no edge.

After all, American robots work as hard as Chinese robots. And they also don’t complain or join labor unions. They all consume the same electricity and do exactly what they are told. It doesn’t make economic sense for American industry to ship raw materials and electronics components across the globe to have Chinese robots assemble them into finished goods that are then shipped back. That manufacturing could be done locally for almost the same cost. And with shipping eliminated, what once took weeks could be done in days and we could reduce pollution at the same time.”

Read the full piece.

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