Volume 40,   Issue 11                      November  2005


There’s No Place Like Home
Supporting the U.S. Manufacturing Industry

by Max Perilstein

Back in November of 2003, I wrote in this space about the “dumping” phenomenon that, at the time, was an issue worrying many in the glass world. I had asked and hoped that we could support the economy here at home instead of supporting a foreign economy—
especially one that would continue to grow at an alarming pace. Well, like most messages I try to send in life, that one did not go over very well, so I am here to try again.

In the two years since I wrote that column, the influence of communist China on our industry has grown dramatically. At the recent glass show in Atlanta, more than 25 companies based in communist China had full-scale booths and displays. Many of you will, and have, asked, “what’s wrong with it? If I can get my product cheaper then I should buy from them.” That is your prerogative, but keep in mind, you are doing damage to the economy at home each time you do. It’s like the opposite of the signs you see on the highways under construction … those signs that say “This short term pain equals long term gain.” Well buying from communist China, the sign would say “This short term gain equals long term pain.”

Know Your Priorities
The Communist Party of China is the country’s main governmental rule. They have been in power there since 1949, and are hard-line and serious about their goals. Surely worrying about the effect that their business may have on the American economy is not a priority.

What gets me is that no one seemingly worries about the Chinese, but if, for instance, Russia was still in its communist glory, and was the one starting to creep into the U.S. landscape, the patriot fervor would be everywhere. We, as Americans, are conditioned by our past to fear Russia, but China we allow a free pass. Why?

The future influence of the Chinese in our industry is not limited to supply—it is just a matter of time before they head into all aspects of our industry, including installation. The eventual goal is to be completely downstream. 

For example, you may have seen on USGNN.com or in this magazine that the Chinese have targeted fabricated glass as a growth area. It is an area in which they are currently the weakest and they are ramping up to do whatever necessary to improve those numbers. We’ve moved from commodities, such as windshields and mirror, to fabricated products as the downstream flow continues. It will go on and on until it reaches the end.

Why U.S. First?
So enough of my carping, all the above will do is get me more nasty e-mails. The question is, what do we do? First, we must support the United States economy. On the tails of two devastating hurricanes we must make sure that when we rebuild in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida and Texas we do so with materials that will help boost this free economy. Just as we work hard to put Americans to work in those regions, we have to do the same on all levels—support companies that truly support our country. Second, we must focus on innovation in the country. That is where we do suffer; we do not spend enough on research and development. We need to create more energy-efficient materials; we have to find ways to keep making them better, quicker and at less expense. And on a related note, needing more innovation is another reason a group such as the NFRC is not a great situation for this industry, as many companies have to spend time and money to deal with their unnecessary police actions instead of investing into products that would truly help reduce this country’s need for energy. 

At the end of the day, no one is going to feel sorry for the United States and no one is going to care if the glass industry is suffering from the Chinese competition—except those of us who are in it. So that’s what it comes down to: support our economy or stand by and watch it dwindle. It’s your choice. 

The Author:
Max Perilstein serves as vice president of marketing for Arch Aluminum and Glass. As with all columnists, his opinions are strictly his own and not necessarily those of this magazine. 

© Copyright 2005 Key Communications Inc. All rights reserved. No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.