558 N. Main St., Prineville, OR 97754 | (541) 447-6205
Adjusting to a changing marketplace
An increase in imported manufactured goods has caused Consolidated Pine to seek more efficient ways to do business
Consolidated Pine reduced their workforce by 40 percent in 2012 because of an increase in the importing of manufactured goods.
March 07, 2013
In 2012, Consolidated Pine had to reduce its workforce by about 40 percent due to a market shift toward imported materials.
They are not alone. The Prineville-based plant, which lost 13 jobs last year, joins two-dozen other companies throughout the state that have had to cut staff for the same reason.
A recently-released analysis completed by the Oregon Fair Trade Campaign showed that the U.S. Labor Department certified 1,911 Oregon jobs as destroyed by direct displacement by imports. Only four other states lost more jobs to imports with Ohio topping the list at 5,662.
Despite the toll that imports have taken on Consolidated, the Labor Department certification they received has qualified them for the Trade Adjustment Assistance program. As a result, they received grant funding intended to help the company compete in the current market.
“The grant that they received from Northwest TAAC (Trade Adjustment Assistance Center) was based on trying to help companies that have been negatively affected by imports to make them more competitive,” said Kleve Kee, a consultant with the Oregon Manufacturing Extension Partnership that Consolidated Pine hired after receiving the grant.
“Consolidated Pine does both solid moulding and finger joint moulding,” Kee said. “Over the past 10 years or so, the imports have really affected their market.” He explained that places like Brazil and China can offer materials at a significantly lower cost than American-made equivalents, making the imports a more attractive option for customers.
Nevertheless, Kee still believes that Consolidated Pine can compete with other out-of-country businesses.
“There are advantages to domestic manufacturing,” he said, noting that customers can request smaller orders, as opposed to large bulk shipments, and can receive the materials more quickly.
“As we have to compete more with imports and overseas companies, we are able to compete in a manufacturing environment, but only if we get more productive and more efficient.”
The Oregon Fair Trade Campaign puts much of the blame for the current market on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which took effect in 1994. They pointed out that since that time, the Labor Department has certified 55,085 trade-displaced jobs nationwide.
Going forward, the group believes that Trans-Pacific Partnership, which is currently under negotiation between the United States and 10 other countries, will cause even more job displacement.
“Far too many of Oregon’s families have already suffered through having their livelihoods shipped overseas as a result of bad trade policies like NAFTA,” said Elizabeth Swager, director of Oregon Fair Trade Campaign. “If trade talks move forward on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, it would offshore even more Oregon jobs by forcing local employers to compete with goods made under sweatshop working conditions in countries like Vietnam and Malaysia, where workers are paid even less than those in China.”
Regardless of those concerns, Kee has seen progress in the domestic market, leaving hope for companies like Consolidated Pine to succeed in the future.
“The import price is two-thirds of the made-in-USA price,” he said. “The gap is closing.”