Assembly candidate visits Rome business

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ROME- John Zielinski, Republican challenger in the race for the 119th State Assembly District, visited Owl Wire and Cable, Inc. on South Madison Street Thursday morning during his campaign trail.

Zielinski, of Marcy, takes on incumbent Democrat Marianne Buttenschon, also of Marcy, in the election on Tuesday, Nov. 8.

The 119th District covers the cities of Utica and Rome, and the cities of Floyd, Marcy, and Whitestown in Oneida County, as well as the city of Frankfort in Herkimer County.

Zielinski was welcomed by Gregory J. Smith, CEO and President of International Wire, parent company of Owl, and David Bass, Vice President of Operations and Continuous Improvements, among other executives and longtime employees of the ‘company.

Smith began his speech with a bit of company history. Headquartered in Camden, International Wire is the largest manufacturer of non-vertically integrated copper and copper alloy wire products in the United States, with extensive operations in Europe.

Smith said several employees had fathers and even grandfathers who worked for the company, “so the industry certainly has a lot of history here.”

International Wire supplies copper wire to manufacturers of security alarms, small appliances and electronics, as well as nuclear power plants and transit.

Smith spoke of the challenge of finding skilled workers to operate the company’s factories.

“About 50% of our employees have less than three years of experience,” he noted.

International Wire also continues to navigate through the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the CEO said. Despite the challenges however, Smith said the company has increased its labor rate by 25% over the past 18 months, keeping International Wire “on top” for wages and employee benefits, including healthcare and a competitive 401K.

During the pandemic, the CEO said International Wire was able to minimize labor disruptions while protecting employees and keeping everyone safe. Over the past 12 months, “there has been a record backlog due to the level of demand, which is certainly strong,” Smith explained, adding that the company has continued to look at the recession and how to run it as a business. “But we stayed healthy.”

So far, International Wire is on track to produce 400 million pounds of copper wire this year, “if we have the people,” Smith said.

The President and CEO said International Wire hopes to continue its efforts to reach out to local high schools and community colleges to promote jobs within their company and in manufacturing generally. “Unfortunately young people don’t necessarily think of manufacturing as a career, and we’re trying to change that,” Smith said.

Born in Rome, Zielinski grew up in Westmoreland and graduated from Westmoreland High School before attending Syracuse University. He and his wife Kate have four children, two of whom serve as officers in the military.

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