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a history lesson

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Generally speaking the phase has a negative connotation, however, I believe if history relating to textile manufacturing repeats itself it will be in a very positive way.

Recently I published an article sent to me that appeared in the N.Y. Times. Its main focus was on the Columbia Sportswear Company and their method of keeping the costs of their products low by implementing a tariff engineering division of their company. The CEO Tim Boyle son of the matriarch of Columbia Gert Boyle was very matter of fact to the point of being adamant stating manufacturing would never come back to the USA. In my opinion if it weren’t for Gert he would be a shoe salesman.

A few years ago a very good friend who knows the Boyles very well told me he watched Gert being interviewed on a local Portland station. All Doug my friend told me from the interview when she was asked about producing in the USA was that her suppliers could not be duplicated in the USA. Therefore Columbia would not be able to return production in the USA. Tim obviously is just parroting his mother’s position, which as I will show you is just non-sense.

The USA is loaded with capitalists. Capitalists invest in businesses that have potential to generate profits. World War Two is a demonstration of how well the USA was able to gear up production very quickly so the war lasted for 4 years after we entered it. I do not believe that any other country in the world even today has that capability except the USA.

Columbia purchases several millions of yards of material in Asia at this time but years ago when Columbia moved production to Asia they were not buying the quantity of material that they currently buy, the Asian suppliers had to develop the capacity.

Today Columbia prepares a year in advance what they are going to make. Suppose they prepare in advance to make product in the USA a year in advance and the mills that we have here could easily produce whatever they need. The capitalists who own the mills wouldn’t be concerned about not being able to produce. While Columbia is satisfying the current needs from Asia they could be gearing up to start production in the USA. The process could overlap.

History about the USA gearing up would repeat itself in the textile industry in a positive way. We in the USA would once again out produce the rest of the world.

I see many benefits for Columbia; number one would be the cost saving by closing down their “tariff engineering” division. They probably employ 50 or more people and give them five and six figure salaries. There could be quite a savings in salaries. Then there is the travel that is involved between the USA and Asia for numerous people to oversee what the contractors are doing. Airline tickets, hotels, restaurants, etc. are all very costly today. If they do all of this work in the USA corporate expenses will be drastically lower.

Columbia would now have surplus funds that will allow them to buy better fabrics. I doubt that the US mills would want to make the cheap materials that Columbia buys today.

There are dormant sewing plants around the country certainly most being in the south eastern states that could be up and running much faster than you could imagine.

Columbia would also reap the benefit of the “MADE IN AMERICA” label. I matter of fact make the best sleeping bags in the world but I also know that many people buy my bags because they are made in America and that is the primary reason, not necessarily because they are the best. Consumers now tell retailers that they want to see what they have that is made in America. Some retailers have told me potential buyers walk out of their stores if they can’t find made in America products. I doubt that north face will come back and if they don’t and Columbia does Columbia might put north face out of business at least in the USA. Columbia just made a deal with a Chinese retail organization and if the Columbia label said made in America that would be the icing on the cake since the Chinese want American made products. So do the Japanese, which I know since I am selling Wiggy products into Japan. They too want the made in America label.

As I see it Columbia is now a publically traded company and as such they have a responsibility to the share-holders to maximize profits and if the qualities of the products they sell are piss poor the shareholders do not care. For a good education in shareholder thinking watch shark tank. People go on the show and almost immediately the sharks want to know if the product can be made cheaper and why not China? From my perspective there are too many chemicals that you will find in Chinese or any Asian made textile products. One guy the other day asked if I knew of chemically free shoes, a first for me but he found a company I assume in the USA. If that is the case the goretex film will become a home for whatever chemicals are used to poison feet.

Short changing the USA is unfortunate, we are not cam be but are the greatest producers of product in the world with the best quality.Recently I saw a documentary about the Ford F-150 production in the 100 year old Rouge River plant in Detroit and it was amazing how clean the facility is and productive, 300,000 trucks a year. I own one and it is easily the best vehicle I have ever owned. There was a time that American automobiles were look down upon but that is not the case now nor has it been for quite some time. The Japanese automakers in the USA ship many thousands of cars to Japan, and that says something about the USA workforce.

Gert it’s time to wake up and come back to the USA the country that enabled you to succeed in a manner not many people experience.

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