Monday, July 13, 2009

How about U.S. hat making?

I believe it is time for Americans to wake up! In the United States, 3,832,000 manufacturing jobs were lost between 2000-2008. A recent poll indicated that 81% of Americans believe America’s manufacturing industries have a significant impact on their standard of living. And also, 68% believe that America’s manufacturing industries have a significant impact on national security.

Is there a future life for U.S. manufacturing? How about U.S. hat making? As we all know, many American manufacturing companies have been forced to close or downsize due to the flood of imports from Asia. Unfortunately, we hear all too often about another manufacturer that has had to close its doors putting more Americans out of work. As president of one of the largest and oldest remaining hat manufacturers in the U.S., I can attest to the painful process of layoffs.

However, there are still consumers in the U.S., Europe, Japan, and elsewhere who place added value on “Made in U.S.A.” products. With U.S. unemployment nearing 10%, I believe there is a renewed interest among Americans to purchase products manufactured by American workers and American companies.

It’s difficult to compete with Asia on pricing given that U.S. labor rates can be 30 times or greater that of China. When you include employee benefits and environmental compliance, the playing field tilts even further. Clearly, manufacturers in the U.S. can’t compete on price alone.

Where we can compete is with a superior product and speed to market. For retailers looking to maintain a tight control in their inventories, U.S. manufacturers can respond quicker by virtue of the travel time to ship by boat or air from abroad alone. If the price is going to be twice as high, the perceived value must be as well. Quality, performance, styling, safety, brand identity, durability, and innovativeness are reasons why consumers might pay more. And, I would again add to this list “Made in the U.S.A.”
It is time to stand up for our jobs and create employment opportunities for our children and our grandchildren. Manufacturing is losing its place in America and that puts our economy into the hands of others. For this reason, The Bollman Hat Company is about to launch “Save an American Job” campaign. We will provide a branded identity for U.S. manufacturers to tell their individual stories with a unified voice. Founders and members of this initiative will choose from a variety of services, branding components, networking opportunities, public relations campaigns, and promotions.

A website is in the works and a membership recruitment drive will kick-off following Independence Day. Independence was the basis for creating the United States: saving American jobs may determine the future of the United States!
Don Rongione, President & CEO, Bollman Hat Company

1 comment:

  1. Kudos to Bollman!

    There has been a lot of press though that the "Buy American" theme is protectionist and will hurt free trade and the American economy.

    There exists a big flaw though in this thinking. It supposes that "Free Trade" and "Globalization" are basically the same thing. THEY ARE NOT!

    Basically, free trade says you sell me T-shirts --I'll sell you semiconductors. Globalization goes a step further saying I will buy your T-shirts and also build a semiconductor plant in your country to increase my profits.

    The difference in the two concepts is that now you have a shift in productivity---taking the semiconductor business out of your country and MAKING THE TECHNOLOGY AND KNOW HOW OF YOUR COMPANY --WHICH WAS ONCE SOLELY YOUR OWN-- NOW AVAILABLE KNOWLEDGE GLOBALLY!

    The idea of a set productivity of nations and the free trade concept goes back to Adam Smith. But, rest assured, Smith had no free trade notions between countries whose population numbers were so far apart as ours and China are. Additionally, Smith certainly had nothing in his theories about increasing other countries productivity by moving our industry out of this country, thus cutting domestic jobs while creating offshore ones, and on top of all that, increasing other countries PRODUCTIVITY by “giving away” our technology!!

    Well, this may be all well and good you may say, but we have a fiduciary responsibility to our shareholders.


    But, sooner or later, we all have to take a stand as businessman and ask ourselves what is more important in our life times---making a big difference or making a big dollar?


    One solution that comes to mind is from the economist Ralph Gomory. His theory is for government to adjust corporate tax rates according to the amount of U.S. content in the product. More U.S. content---less taxes. Less U.S. content—more taxes. This policy would encourage more companies to locate in the U.S. or use U.S. made components thus KEEPING JOBS HERE!

    You know, I have attended the THA dinners for 20 years. Originally, I was amazed. The original charter called for a yearly gathering for fellowship. This was truly something I wanted to see! Competitors together for fellowship. Ya, right! But, I couldn’t believe it when I attended my first dinner. The camaraderie amongst competitors was amazing. I was hooked and wanted to become part of that fraternity. However, in years since my first dinner, the interests of company, country and camaraderie have seemed to have taken large divergent steps.

    I believe as an industry, if we all came together as we once were…..
    ….with our business values, our values toward our country and our fraternal values toward each other….

    NES Enterprises, Inc.