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Goodbye 2020

Shannon Wetzel

I don’t think it is a stretch to say most of us are ready to give 2020 a vehement goodbye. Changing the calendar to 2021 won’t automatically wash away the pandemic that has changed the way we all have been working and living for the last nine months, but the fresh start of a new year has never felt so appealing to me. With news of the successful development of effective vaccines out as I write this, my hope for a better 2021 grows greater still. 

It’s natural to think about how such a disruptive time will be recounted years from now, and what long-term impacts it will have on the world, our lives and our industry. 

There’s another reason we at AFS have been looking forward to 2021—it marks our 125th anniversary.

As part of the AFS anniversary commemoration, Modern Casting has been highlighting pieces of association and foundry industry history in each issue this year. Reflecting on the events of the past that helped shape the industry today have helped put our current situation into perspective. (In this issue, Modern Casting looks at the roots of AFS research funding on page 48.)

What reviewing AFS history has shown me is the resilience and drive of the industry and its leaders. And that through working with each other, pushing each other, debating and compromising with each other, this industry’s leaders have pulled metalcasting through challenging times and pushed it forward when growth and innovation was needed.

When AFS held its first few conventions at the end of the 19th century into the early 1900s, many metalcasters were not keen on inviting suppliers. I can imagine the heated conversations. But the wisdom of showing new equipment and foundry products was quickly realized. In the early 1900s, Dr. Richard Moldenke reported at one annual meeting: “Perhaps no one thing has stimulated the educational movement in the foundry industry as much as the magnificent exhibition of foundry machinery and appliances. Foundrymen are waking up to the fact that they must reequip their plants to meet modern conditions, and the creation of these modern conditions are directly traceable to the work of our association.”

More recently, the industry’s greatest upheaval accounted for a drastic and gut-wrenching contraction during the 1980s, when nearly two foundries were closed per week. That period’s impact continues to sting, but the metalcasting industry that came out of the era is leaner, more efficient, and technologically innovative. 

When you look back at 125 years of history, a single year seems like a blip, but this one will leave its mark. In 2020, we saw this industry step up to operate safely while helping supply needed products. We saw companies react quickly to market changes, yet maintain an eye on their true course.

Hopefully, 2021 can be a year of moving on and moving forward.

A quote from President Harry Truman celebrating AFS on its 50th anniversary in 1946 was hopeful and future-looking in tone. In a congratulatory letter, he wrote:

“The members of the castings industry have good reason to be proud of their contributions to the winning of the war, but I am sure that you are thinking less about what you did during the war than about what you can contribute to the growth and prosperity of American industry during the period that lies ahead of us.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged us all professionally and personally.  With promising vaccine news, we hopefully are on the cusp of putting it in the history books. Like Truman, I’m looking forward to seeing the casting industry lift and support the new economy once again.

Enjoy a safe and happy New Year. See you in 2021!