The Jan. 5 commentary by Ann Manning (“Pipeline’s ripple effect: Abuse of women, girls”) could not have been further from the truth. The statements made in the commentary were both outrageous and demeaning to the hardworking men and women who labor to build our country’s infrastructure.
Like Manning, I grew up in rural Iowa, and there, I developed a deep-seated love for agriculture, the land and natural resources. Unlike Manning, who seems to make her living opposing important projects and attacking hardworking men and women through inflammatory opinion pieces, I’ve made my living as the president of a small, family-owned business in the energy industry. Our company started 10 years ago on our farm in Milaca, Minn. My company, Avery Technical Resources, has grown because of clients like Enbridge, and today we supply human resources for energy projects across the United States.
Avery has worked with Enbridge on many energy projects, from the prairies of eastern Colorado to the ranchlands of the South to the wetlands of northern Minnesota. We hire men and women to support all phases of projects, from construction management, inspection oversight and infrastructure installation to the restoration along pipeline construction corridors.
I can unequivocally say that the standards set by Enbridge for the conduct of the employees we hire to work on its projects is the strictest in the industry. Our employees must pass strict drug-testing and criminal-background checks, gain driver’s license clearance and sign code-of-conduct agreements. Those agreements lay out behavior expectations that reflect a respectful workplace to all races, religions and genders, along with expectations of respecting the communities where construction projects take place. With the stickers on our employees’ hard hats saying “Your Community is our Priority,” this serves as a constant reminder that we are guests in these communities.
Most of our employees have families, who are supported by the building of our nation’s energy infrastructure. Rather than being workers who “have no connections to the community” and “bring trouble, attracting the drug trade, sex trafficking or both,” our employees volunteer, participate in community events and spend money at small businesses that boost local economies. If Manning were to visit any of the northern Minnesota communities where Enbridge has constructed and operated pipelines for more than 65 years, she would witness the benefits from the pipeline industry.
Further, questions were raised about the consequences to women and children along pipeline right of way communities. I can say that communities where we construct projects have welcomed us. Our company’s success allows us to give back to communities by supporting schools, 4-H and FFA, and civic groups and organizations. We donate to the Ronald McDonald House, St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, the United Way, the Red Cross and more during the holidays, and the list goes on. This is the same giving nature that ripples through our employees. For example, the Avery employees working on an Enbridge project who donated their time to assist seniors in moving snow during winter storms, or the Avery employee who bought livestock at the local county fair, or the Avery employee who donated to the American Legion or the Avery employees who organized a blood drive in Iowa. These things I see as some positive consequences for women and children in these communities where we work.
Avery Technical Resources, nor any other pipeline company that I know, does not operate a “predator economics” business (Manning’s term). My family came to Minnesota to work on pipeline projects. We educated our children here. We grew a business here from the ground up. We are advocates for the Line 3 replacement project because we have personally experienced the benefits of energy projects and have seen our employees thrive in small-town Minnesota.
Sex trafficking is a real problem in this country, but to stereotype it as one industry’s problem is shameful, disrespects victims and detracts from work being done to combat it.
Lori Schott is the president and co-owner of Avery Technical Resources in Milaca, Minn.