Comeback of the Blue-Collar Guys: Echt!

By April 1, 2008Economy

The Rheinischer Merkur — a weekly newspaper circulated nationally in Germany — included a major piece on the U.S. manufacturing economy in a recent issue, part of a special section, “The American Nightmare.” (It’s OK. Despite the title, the Merkur is not one of those reflexively anti-American publications.)

Entitled, “Comeback der Blaumaenner,” or “Comeback in the Men in Blue” — we’d say more, “Comeback of the Blue-Collar Guys” — the article by Jens Korte features a nice sampling of National Association of Manufacturing member companies and board members, including Drew Greenblatt of Marlin Steel, Mary Andringa of Vermeer Manufacturing and Stephanie Harkness of Pacific Plastics and Engineering. Caterpillar and Al-Jon also figure in the story.

It’s a good overview of manufacturing — the upside, including this context:

According to Peter Esser of the Bundesverband der Deutschen Industrie (BDI) in Washington, the weak dollar is not the only thing drawing foreign businesses back to the United States. “The German middle class is very familiar with the U.S. market. We’ve observed a trend that German operations are increasingly withdrawing from Asia and moving more toward the United States.”

Many firms had their fingers burned in the Far East. Trade secrets and intellectual property went missing. With the American market the middle class can better judge what to expect. “On top of that, there’s the shipping costs,” says the lobbyist, Esser. With oil topping $110 a barrel, freight costs are also exploding. “That’s contributed to the comeback of manufacturing in the United States.”

Many customers are also sensitive to the advantages of “Made in the USA.” And for that reason Pacific Plastics & Engineering (PPE), a contractor for custom work and medical technology, is doing quite well. “Our customers want to be sure that we can meet their required specifications,” says Stephanie Harkness, chairwoman of PPE. The 100-man company sits in the middle of Silicon Valley. Many of the new customers are start ups, for which PPE develops prototypes. “So a lot of development directors are coming our way.” Harkness, too, is seeing the return of those who are turning away from Asia. “America is still the place where most of the ideas and new technologies are being born, and now we have the chance to use that.”

Here is a .pdf of the original article in German, and here is our not-so-polished translation. We added the links.

Leave a Reply