POTTSTOWN — Sometimes, it helps to have friends in high places.
As its name implies, Pottstown’s own American Keg Co. is the only place in America where beer kegs are still being made and the company prides itself on only using American-made steel to do it.
Pottstown’s own American Keg Co. is the only manufacturer of beer kegs left in the U.S.(Evan Brandt — MediaNews Group)
But when the supply chain problems that have plagued the nation’s businesses during the COVID pandemic threatened its supply, it also threatened to shut the company down, costing 25 jobs.
To make matters more dire, the company had just completed a $6 million expansion last October. “Can you imagine, investing that much money to expand your business only to have your supply line cut?” said American Keg CEO Paul Czachor.
Enter U.S. Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-4th Dist. and U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo.
U.S. Rep. Madeleine Dean, center, speaks during a June 1 press conference at American Keg in Pottstown. Behind her, from left, are Montgomery County Commissioners Chair Val Arkoosh, state Rep. Joe Ciresi, American Keg owner Scott Bentley, American Keg CEO Paul Czachor, U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and U.S. Sen. Bob Casey.(Evan Brandt — MediaNews Group)
“They were facing lay-offs of shutting down,” Dean said during a June 1 visit and tour of the plant, in large part because the company’s leadership could not get to the top people at the steel companies to make their case.
But even the CEO of a major steel company takes the call when its a member of President Biden’s cabinet on the other end of the line.
American Keg owner Scott Bentley, right, explains some of the keg making process to Valerie Arkoosh, chair of the Montgomery County Commissioners during a June 1 tour of the facility.(Evan Brandt — MediaNews Group)
“I raised the issue with the Secretary in January, and she and her staff jumped on it,” Dean said.
“This is something we’ve been dealing with across the county,” Raimondo said during the press conference that followed a tour of the facility. “During the pandemic, some of the suppliers started cutting off some of the smaller customers.”
An American Keg employee operates a machine molding part of a beer keg out of a steel sheet.(Evan Brandt — MediaNews Group)
Raimondo was able to act as a “matchmaker” and connect American Keg with the CEO of North American Stainless, and a regular supply was re-established.
Even with that help, the keg maker is constrained to running only one shift per day, during which it produces about 400 kegs, due to supply constraints, Czachor said.
Dean noted that 85% of the steel American Keg now uses is made from recycled material and “every scrap of steel they cut off gets recycled too.”
U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo talks about her efforts to connect American Keg with a steel supplier during a June 1 visit to the Pottstown facility.(Evan Brandt — MediaNews Group)
For Raimondo, this is more than a policy issue. “My dad worked for 28 years at a watch factory in Rhode Island and it allowed us to have a comfortable, middle class lifestyle until the factory closed and moved to China,” she said.
“I don’t do this as a policy wonk, I know this is real for moms and dads and families trying to put food on the table,” she said.
“The Biden administration has made revitalizing American manufacturing a top priority and Congresswoman Dean has been a steadfast partner in the fight to protect American manufacturing, secure critical supply chains, and create good-paying jobs at home,” Raimondo said in a press release issued after her visit. “I’m proud to have worked with Congresswoman Dean to help American Keg secure the steel they needed to keep their doors open. I’m also grateful for the chance to visit a company working hard to keep manufacturing jobs in Pennsylvania.”
A portion of a beer keg moves on to the next step in the manufacturing process at Pottstown’s American Keg Co.(Evan Brandt — MediaNews Group)
“I was grateful for the visit from Secretary Raimondo, Congresswomen Dean, and Senator Casey as they were instrumental in helping American Keg with supply chain and tariff issues to allow us to continue and grow,” Czachor said.
“Manufacturers like American Keg showcase the best of Pennsylvania by investing in local workers and using stainless steel made here in America,” U.S. Sen. Bob Casey said in the release. “Rep. Dean and I will continue to advocate for Pennsylvania workers and the companies that embody our ‘made in America’ values.”
Pictured from left:: David Valletta, Vishay Executive Vice President – Worldwide Sales; Gina Raimondo, U.S. Secretary of Commerce; and Chrissy Houlahan, U.S. Representative of PA-06 viewing Vishay’s product display cases. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
Earlier in the day, Raimondo visited a semi-conductor plant in Malvern with U.S. Rep. Chrissy Houlahan, D-6th Dist.