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Sen. Jerry Moran visited Hopkins Manufacturing Thursday afternoon, where he spoke with the factory's leadership and greeted employees.
Tariffs were a major topic of discussion for the afternoon.
"One of the concerns is that if you raise the price of the inputs, then mostly what we're talking about is either tariffs on steel and aluminum, which would be the components of the equipment that actually makes the product here, or the tariffs on products coming in from China makes it more expensive to manufacture here in Kansas — here in the United States," Moran said. "In addition to that, there has been a process in place in which a company can get an exclusion from those tariffs — meaning the tariff goes away for that product. And what I learned here today is how cumbersome, how bureaucratic, how difficult it is to work your way through that process. And it's a reminder to me that I have work to do to try to make this process work better. If we're gonna have tariffs and they're gonna offer exclusions from those tariffs, then it ought to be something that a business in Kansas is able to achieve."
Much of what is produced in Kansas doesn't stay in the state, Moran said, and tariffs are hard on Kansas producers. This includes, he said, ag producers. Moran believes a trade agreement with Canada and Mexico is important to keeping jobs in the state, he said.
President of Hopkins Manufacturing Brad Kraft, who helped lead Moran on his tour of the factory, said the senator was invited to the Emporia-based business for several reasons.
"So the goal today was to have the senator come in, learn more about Hopkins and what we do as a business, give him the opportunity to meet some of his constituents that are here, employed at Hopkins, and identify some issues that are affecting us from a business standpoint," Kraft said.
Some of these issues included, in addition to tariffs, jobs and access to data gathered by newer-model vehicles.
According to Kraft, unemployment is down significantly, which means fewer potential hires for Hopkins.
Hopkins has seen the affects of all three of the tariffs passed down by President Donald Trump's administration, which have cost the business money.
Kraft also spoke about data gathering with the senator, something he said has had an impact on the auto industry, which in turn has an impact on Hopkins. According to Kraft, newly manufactured cars gather data for the manufacturers.
"The independent aftermarket needs to have access to that data in order to give you, as a consumer, the choice to have the repair done there," he said. "What we look at in the industry supports is, it's your car, your data, your choice. You should be able to choose where you want to have your car serviced and that service should have the opportunity to have that data."
Kraft said he believed the opportunity to tour Hopkins and learn more about the issues that have an impact on it offered Moran valuable insight.
"He seemed to understand all of the issues that we're facing and (was) very receptive to looking at what can be done from a Washington level," he said.
Moran also answered a question about the current government shutdown.
"I try always to be optimistic," he said. "I think this is something that could be solved — a give-and-take between the parties that should be negotiating in Washington D.C. The discouraging thing is that it doesn't seem to be that what talks they've had — it didn't seem to be that anybody budged or anybody really offered a solution. People just stated their positions."
Moran was hopeful that a meeting at the White House Friday between the president and congressional leadership might yield results.
"Maybe something can come from that," he said. "I hope so. I don't think good things come from a shutdown. There's plenty of people who are impacted by that, and certainly the people who work for the federal government who aren't getting a paycheck — that's a real problem. Most Americans live kind of paycheck-to-paycheck and in its absence, that creates real stress on families across the country. So I want this to come to an end. I want it to come to an end more quickly than it appears to me it's going to."
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