Can the U.S. Afford to Export its Manufacturing Economy? by Jim Altfeld

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Letters from our Readers

Commentary: The Loss of U.S. Manufacturing Jobs
by Dana Matejka

We are a small manufacturing company that has been in business for 36 years. We have never been worried like we are now. We're not against free trade and competition, but the current situation is way beyond that. We offer a catalog line of metal stampings for the lighting industry and have competed with imports for more than 20 years. That was okay when there were still companies here manufacturing/assembling, but now they are bringing in the fixtures assembled, boxed, and ready to sell.

The American Lighting Association stated that 80% of lighting is now coming in from offshore, which creates a domino effect - component manufacturers do not have anyone to sell to, therefore they (we) are not buying steel/aluminum/other metals, we are not buying equipment, tools, supplies, we are not using shipping services, etc. This is not the "trickle down" effect that we looked forward to in the 80s. Our company only employs about 20 people, but when you multiply that by all the other small to medium-size manufacturers of 20 to 50 people, that adds up to an awful lot of people that will not have jobs. How then will we buy the "stuff" coming in from China or pay for all the "services" that the people here are providing in their new jobs?

When manufacturing is gone from the U.S., who is going to protect us? Are we going to buy our military equipment from China? That's an interesting concept - like the fox watching over the hen house!

Why don't we hear of this in the mainstream media? The only place I hear anyone talking about it is in trade magazines. What can we do? Is there time to turn the tide?

Dana Matejka
California Tool & Die
421 S Irwindale Ave.
Azusa, CA 91702

It's Happening Here, Too
I feel for California Tool and Die. My company is thinking the silver bullet is to lay everyone off and send all production to China. Most of our engineers, designers, and so forth cannot find local jobs. The same is happening throughout the Northern front range of Colorado as Agilent, HP, and others are doing the same.

How about a web site that allows us to view at least what percent of a product is made in the good old U.S.A.? I would go there for every purchase over $10.00 and pick the U.S made product, even if it costs more. Eventually someone might get the message.

Jeff Edquist

Save American Manufacturing
I read with interest (and dismay) the commentary by Dana Matejka entitled, "The Loss of U.S. Manufacturing Jobs."

A full-page ad in the March 2003 issue of MoldMaking Technology magazine also caught my attention. Words in large print read: "Help Keep Manufacturing in the United States. Speak Up and Be Heard in Washington. Join the Fight to Stop the Deindustrialization of the U.S." It goes on to say that manufacturing in the U.S. is disappearing before our eyes, and if something isn't done soon, American manufacturing will be a thing of the past. These tough words are from the Chicago Chapter of the American Mold Builders Association (AMBA).

As you may know, it is unusual for a chapter of any association to sponsor the cost of a full-page magazine ad. I believe the goal of the ad is to stir the emotions of readers to the point of action. The ad outlines the threat to American manufacturing, specifically moldmakers, and asks readers to respond. This effort, called the "Save American Manufacturing" (SAM) initiative, has stimulated hundreds of letters to the White House. An article on SAM was published in the same issue of the magazine and includes interesting but sobering excerpts from some of these letters. If you are interested in learning more, visit or contact Cynthia Petrucci at Email Contact, phone 630-978-4747. She will send you sample letters, making it easier to write to our policy makers in Washington.

Best regards,

Terry Wohlers
Wohlers Associates, Inc.
Fort Collins, Colorado 80525 USA
970-225-2027 (fax)
Email Contact

View from the UK
Ever since the era of Margaret Thatcher in the 1980's in the UK, manufacturing has been the Cinderella of UK businesses. At the time, money - "financial services" - was seen as the way to get rich.

Like your correspondent Dana Matejka some of us in the UK wondered where the wealth to sustain all this paper money would come from, once we stopped actually making anything to generate cash!

Sadly, I think the crash of late in the Stock Markets is the "re-balance" to the system - and we all paid for that with our pension funds and investments. It is also true to say that businesses respond to change in different ways. Some see the situation coming and rise to the challenge of adapting to the new conditions. Others see it coming, but may not have the vision, skills or capital to re-invent their businesses. Many of these have been established for many years, provide secure, local employment and contribute to the wealth of their locality; when they go, whole communities suffer, as Dana Matejka points out.

But, this is true capitalism at work on a global scale - the social costs associated with such structural changes as we see are no concern of business. Their job is to get the best return on the investments of their shareholders - and if that means making equipment in China, then so-be-it! It is the job of government to address the mess it leaves behind, even if the mess can be traced back to their decisions, made or not made, in the previous decade.

Nick Ballard, Senior Consultant
Cambashi Limited
52, Mawson Road, Cambridge CB1 2HY.
Phone: +44 (0)1223 460439

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