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The eloquent reality show host and manufacturing
advocate—formerly of Dirty Jobs and currently of Somebody’s Gotta Do It and Returning the Favor —speaks to
tradespeople in a way few, if any, can. He also has a
foundation, mikerowe Works, that gives out scholarships
to people seeking a career in the trades.
Greg contacted Rowe in 2016 in hopes they could
work out a partnership.
Rowe, previously a pitchman for Ford, knew a straight-
up endorsement with a smaller company wouldn’t work,
but there was another angle.
“We did a [Dirty Jobs] special once years ago called
‘Dirty DNA,’ where we look at ‘dirty jobbers’ who were
running companies two, three, and four generations
down,” Rowe says. “And for what it’s worth, it was
the highest rated specials that we did. So I’ve always
thought there was a lot of goodwill bottled up toward
families who are still actually making things here and
making a go of it.”
At the time, Rowe’s new podcast, The Way I Heard
It, was small but had potential. PCA sponsored the
podcast, in which Rowe would talk more about the
Shea family than the actual product. In return, PCA
produced RevMark markers with the mikeroweWorks
logo emblazoned on the side.
“I don’t even know what the orders were, but in my
little world with 5 million people on a Facebook page,
we were overwhelmed with questions and support for
this family,” Rowe says.
Shea says any time Rowe mentions PCA, there are
still “huge spikes” in sales.
AMERICA’S NEXT CHAPTER
Aside from selling industrial markers, this partnership between a fourth-generation pen making family
and working-class hero spotlights the serious issues
facing manufacturing. Rowe avidly talks about how the
current skills gap is a byproduct of foolishly pushing
kids into four-year degrees they spend their lives paying
off, while plenty of great, high-paying trade jobs exist
if you’re willing to put in the effort.
“From a purely foundational perspective, and just
“I just love the idea of something as simple as a pen,”
from traveling around for the last 20 years and talking
to employers, there’s no bigger issue,” Rowe says.
In Garwood, Greg Shea sees that frsthand, trying
to hire new employees.
“For injection molding, it’s near impossible to fnd
people who have experience,” he says. “Both for me-
chanics who do upkeep and foremen who know how
to get parts running well.” He says two out of three
foremen are homegrown.
That’s time-consuming and costly.
“You have to bring in somebody and teach them from
the ground up how to handle these machines and run
them,” Greg says.
But that’s actually worked out for PCA, Greg says:
“My plant manager who runs the entire molding side
of our business started out as an operator taking parts
out of machine.”
The plant manager’s mother worked there and he
started right out of high school making entry-level
money. Now a little more than a decade later, he makes
upper-management money with zero student loan debt.
PCA paid for his continuing education.
“Everything we threw at him, he never complained
and worked hard, so [he] moved up ranks,” Greg says.
“He’s in charge of a large percentage of a multi-mil-
lion-dollar operation. I truly believe if he’d gone to
college, he wouldn’t be in the position he is now.”
This is the scenario Rowe evangelizes through his
humble multimedia empire, and ultimately why he
decided to spend time visiting the Sheas and making
several videos with them.
“So we have the Pen Company of America, who, on
a microcosmic level, is dealing with the exact same
challenges of recruiting as Caterpillar and some of
the biggest bellwethers in the country,” Rowe says.
Spotlighting how this one family has stuck together
to manufacture success even in dark times should
give the rest of the industry at least a glimmer of hope.
Rowe says. “I’ve always argued that if you can’t make
a pen here, what hope does Detroit have.”
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