Despite Recession, Competition, U.S. Manufacturing Still No. 1

By October 23, 2009Economy

St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist David Nicklaus talks to local manufacturers and reports that, even in during a tough economic downturn, manufacturing in the United States is still a leader. From “U.S. product makers are slumping — but still No. 1“:

Despite a brutal recession and stiff Asian competition, it’s way too soon to write an obituary for U.S. manufacturing.

Just ask Robert Freund, who was able to rehire some laid-off workers this year at Checker Bag in Overland. Or Robert Griggs, whose Trinity Products in St. Charles invested $650,000 in new equipment during the deepest part of the recession.

Freund’s company makes plastic bags, and Trinity Products produces steel pipe.

John Engler, president of the National Association of Manufacturers was in St. Louis visiting manufacturers, and he stopped by Porta-King Building Products in Earth City. Porta-King builds modular office systems are installed inside factories and warehouses, as well as security structures like guard towers. Demand for security products have remained stronge even during the downturn in housing and construction, explains the company’s Steve Schulte.

Porta-King, which has its largest factory in Montgomery City, Mo., has cut about 60 jobs from its peak employment of 160.

Schulte hopes to rehire those workers next year, but he isn’t surprised by predictions that manufacturing won’t bounce back quickly. “People are going to be really wary about adding anything until they are convinced that the recovery is real,” he says.

Nicklaus has done a nice job capturing the dynamics of the U.S. manufacturing sector and the state of the economy around St. Louis. It’s tough, but still surprisingly good in many respects.

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