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“Made in America.”
Of all the things the owners of Wellborn Cabinet Inc., and their 1,400 employees in rural Ashland, Ala., are proud of, it’s that the high-quality products they turn out are domestically produced, providing good-paying jobs and a lifetime of security for hundreds of families.
Founded in 1961 with a single building, Wellborn has grown into a 2 million-square-foot furniture manufacturing behemoth that serves as the economic cornerstone for Clay County, in the central-eastern region of the state.
But it all nearly came to an end in recent years, thanks to the predatory business practices of China.
In fact, Wellborn was well on its way to becoming just another economic casualty of Beijing, one of more than 60,000 American manufacturers that have closed their doors since China since it joined the World Trade Organization in December 2001.
Were it not for some American ingenuity, a strong will to fight for the company, and great support from our “America First” president, Donald Trump, Wellborn — like scores of other U.S. factories — would have been shuttered. Lives and livelihoods would have been destroyed along with it, and another American community devastated.
In a newly released video produced by USA Strong, a grassroots organization focused on revitalizing the American middle class, Executive Director Erin Elmore tells the story of Wellborn’s fight for survival against China’s “parasitic” practices of infiltrating U.S. industries and markets, slowly taking them over and then destroying them while offshoring American jobs and leaving communities devastated.
The video, “Wellborn: Fighting to Keep USA Strong,” details how the furniture maker formed a coalition of businesses and successfully took their case to the Trump administration in a fight against China’s unfair “predatory dumping” practices.
Paul Wellborn, president and CEO of the company, who “watched through the years” as China took over the American furniture industry, said he went to see President Trump personally, adding that the administration “was very helpful all the way” in providing assistance to combat China’s business practices.
“The Chinese are down 93 percent year-to-date on imports into this nation, so that’s what I call a success. And it’s all because of our president believing in what he believes in, the American people and jobs for Americans,” the CEO said, adding that he believes Trump’s tariff regime and other hard-line policies aimed at promoting American business and industry have been successful.
Darcy Johnson, manager of the Wellborn plant, explained how the Chinese slowly but surely gain control over manufacturers.
He said that “little by little,” companies begin buying cheaper manufacturing materials from Chinese firms. Over time, American companies adjust their business models to accommodate those purchases by cutting their own manufacturing capacity and laying off workers.
Eventually, Johnson continued, companies become reliant on Chinese suppliers who then begin raising prices with impunity because they no longer face any competition; the American manufacturer has nowhere else to turn, having gotten rid of the infrastructure needed to begin producing their own materials once more.
For Wellborn, “it started off with wooden components, and then China said, ‘Well, we can make the doors for you.’ And they would give you a really, really good price,” he said. “You do the cost analysis, it was way cheaper to buy.
“Well, what happens is, you start buying everything, you start getting rid of your equipment to the point…and you get rid of all your people, and now you’re so reliant on China, eventually they start raising the price of the doors you’re buying,” Johnson continued.
At that point, he said, companies figure out it’ll take more to restart their own production rather than continuing to buy from the Chinese, who continue to raise prices. Eventually, the Chinese firm will build a factory “down the road” that can produce the same products for less money, thereby driving the American manufacturer completely out of business.
It’s a process Chinese firms have repeated thousands of times, and in every case, it’s the American companies — and workers — who suffer losses.
It’s “parasitic,” Johnson said.
Danielle Wellborn Aviles, the company’s account manager, said that tariffs President Trump placed on China dramatically leveled the playing field for her family’s company — and, no doubt, thousands of other American firms.
“I would be 30 percent higher, if not more” in prices for Wellborn products without the tariffs, she told Elmore.
“Now, I’m coming in, if not the same price, you know, maybe two percent higher, and we can always work with that,” she said, adding that it levels “the playing field” for “better American-made products.”
Stephen Wellborn, the company’s director of research, praised the Trump administration’s “America first” policy in helping combat China’s predatory practices after the cabinet maker realized it was under threat.
“We needed an administration that understood the domestic industry and also the domestic workers, and President Trump does,” he said, going on to explain how the company fought back.
He said Wellborn formed a coalition of about 50 companies that took their cases to the Commerce Department, where they won a history 5-0 ruling at the Court of International Trade against China.
The result: The imposition of 60 percent tariffs and duties on all Chinese cabinets coming into American markets for five years.
“It gives the American worker an opportunity to come to the table and compete in a market that’s already competitive just in the domestic industry,” Stephen Wellborn said, adding that there will be “a sunset review” of the ruling to see whether it should be extended an additional five years.
He said the fact that the court ruled unanimously just showed how much China was unfairly “undercutting our market.”
The ruling “saved 250,000 domestic jobs” in the industry, the chief researcher added, “mostly in rural America.”
The video also notes that China has hacked the personal information of more than 145 million Americans and that Chinese industrial and other forms of espionage is so prolific the FBI opens a new investigation every 10 hours.
In all, Chinese activities have resulted in the loss of 2.8 million American manufacturing jobs alone, leading to a loss of $133 billion to the U.S. economy annually, the video notes.
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