The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Chip Minemyer

August 21, 2011

Ironic moment illustrates value of cooperation

— Before she served as a leader in the state Republican Party, Eileen Melvin was an economic-development consultant.

In that capacity, she worked with people of various backgrounds to help bring jobs to the region.

She followed that up with several years among the top GOP leaders across the state.

She worked with numerous campaigns, including those of former Gov. Tom Ridge and Sens. Rick Santorum and Arlen Specter.

For nearly two years, Melvin has been the president and CEO of United Metal Fabricators in Johnstown.

And on Tuesday, the former Republican leader welcomed U.S. Rep. Mark Critz – a Democrat – to her company.

When Critz’s visit was announced, Melvin’s name was on the press release as the primary media contact, along with the statement: “We are very excited to host Congressman Critz.”

Despite the political irony, she said having a relationship with your local representatives – regardless of their party affiliation or your own political history – just makes sense.

“Economic development should not be partisan,” Melvin said from her office at UMF.

Melvin and Critz became acquainted when he was working under the late John Murtha. One of Critz’s roles as Murtha’s district director was bringing together groups and individuals with shared economic-development goals.

“Mark and I have been friends for a long time,” Melvin said.

As state GOP chief in 2005 and 2006, Melvin helped raise money for candidates and also helped those candidates shape their campaign messages. Invariably, the messages involved jobs and the economy.

“I saw that getting good people elected was one of the best ways to strengthen communities,” she said.

Melvin was appointed to the Pennsylvania Unemployment Compensation Board of Review by two different governors – Mark Schweiker, a Republican, and Ed Rendell, a Democrat.

The former state Republican leader sees a political landscape now rife with partisanship – to the point that little of substance gets accomplished.

“It’s so unfortunate what’s happening in Washington,” she said. “And the good citizens pay the price.”

United Metal Fabricators is located on Eisenhower Boulevard in Richland Township.

The company manufactures examination tables, power chairs, instrument and supply carts and other metal products used in the health-care industry.

UMF has customers across the United States and Canada, and in regions including the Middle East and Latin America.

“This company has a long and rich history,” Melvin said. “It has had many, many challenges in the past 10 to 15 years. But some very exciting things are happening.”

No doubt chief among those exciting developments is having a new CEO who understands the minefield of today’s political landscape and sees value in building relationships – regardless of whether someone’s name is followed by a D or an R.

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Chip Minemyer

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