Trump’s new tariffs put job expansion of 60 to 80 jobs on hold at Kent International
by Staff Reports | March 21, 2018 7:09 am
Last Updated: March 21, 2018 at 1:26 am
A jobs expansion proposal by Kent International in Manning is on hold after the Trump administration’s newly announced tariffs on imported steel and aluminum.
Matt Wiebe with Bicycle Retailer magazine wrote this week that while the new tariffs ose no immediate impact to the company, CEO Arnold Kamler “is putting off a decision to purchase welding robots and start welding frames from imported pre-cut and shaped tubing at his South Carolina factory.
If Kamler were to move ahead by year’s end as he had planned, the move would have added between 60 and 80 jobs at his South Carolina facility.
“The idea was to work first on the welding and then eventually purchase the automatic bending and laser cutting equipment, but this is now on hold,” Kamler said in Bicycle Retailer. “The move by the Trump Administration was done too hastily, and was done to fulfill his campaign promise, and will not help our economy and, in my opinion, will cause job loss.”
Last year, Kent International assembled about 300,000 bikes at its Manning factory.
Meanwhile, last week, PeopleForBikes sent a letter to its members seeking their opinion on the Trump administration’s decision to levy a 25 percent tariff on steel and 10 percent on aluminum. Those tariffs are scheduled to be imposed Friday. Canada and Mexico have been exempted at least for now.
In its letter to members, PFB said “the president’s actions could lead to higher costs for bicycle products produced domestically that utilize steel and aluminum imports. PeopleForBikes is actively working to understand the issue as it affects our members and we want to learn more.”
It asked that its members reach out to Katy Hartnett, PFB’s director of government relations to share their perspective.
Nonetheless, DT Swiss, which makes spokes at its Grand Junction, Colorado, facility, said the tariff could have a significant impact on its foreign supplier of high-quality steel wire. Wheelsmith, with a factory in Mequon, Wisconsin, could also be hit with higher prices.
On the other hand, Paul Price, founder of Paul Component Engineering, said he only uses domestically produced aluminum and the boost in the aluminum tariff will not impact him directly. But he expects the cost of domestic aluminum to go up if the tariff is imposed, he said.
In general, it appears that the overall bicycle industry could experience little impact in the short term from the new tariffs. But suppliers worry that any hint of higher prices could further slow growth in an already soft market for bicycles.
Further roiling concerns over the economy is Trump’s threat to hit China with tariffs on $30 billion worth of exports to the U.S. That could spark a trade war between the globe’s leading economies.
Matt Wiebe of Bicycle Retailer contributed to this report.