Conceived in America But Built in Korea

I would imagine that my resident State, South Carolina, is similar to the rest of the United States in many ways. Over the past few years, hundreds of manufacturing companies here have either closed down, been acquired or are operating as a mere shell of their former status. A haunting statistic here is that in just over twenty short years, we have witnessed the slow, agonizing, near-death of the once-dominant textile industry here in America, a great deal of which was operationally centered here in the Carolinas.

I moved here from Ohio twenty six years ago, when the single largest industry in the state was textiles. Although a few textile finishing companies remain, there are no more US textile machine manufacturers and yarn spinning companies to speak of. During that time, even as the industry vocalists were crying to government officials for protection, developing a mantra of “Made in America,” they continued to buy and utilize foreign-made machinery for their manufacturing plants. They cited lower costs and increased production as their reasoning. Concurrently, manufacturing plants were closing down and the legions of unemployed people were beginning to mount up.

Wal-Mart, a once stellar example of the philosophy of “buy American goods,” virtually single-handedly put the US television and consumer electronics industries out of business with their demands, incentives and purchasing in Korea and China. It is reported that Wal-Mart currently employs more than one thousand people at their Chinese purchasing facility, sourcing low cost goods aimed for the American market, eliminating further opportunities for domestic manufacturers. PBS, BusinessWeek and others have also reported quite extensively on this very subject.

The Columbia Business Monthly magazine just published a featured story concerning a relatively new electronic sensor company which employs twenty-five people in Columbia, 15 of which are PhD’s according to the article. The authors spoke of the company’s great innovative developments in LED technology and the promising markets that will benefit from their new technological advancements. What was particularly interesting is that the US military is not only a financial backer, but lined up to be a customer for many of their products. The authors proudly reported that this company had received a top honor in winning the Columbia Chamber of Commerce’s 2006 Award for Technical Development. Great! Good for them! Now what?

What is most disturbing about this article is that the authors seemed to gloss over the fact that while awards are being won and that promising research and development are happening here in South Carolina, all of the resulting 1200 manufacturing jobs are in Seoul, South Korea, not here.

Again, manufactured in Korea, not here.

If there ever was a vivid illustration of what is so wrong in our manufacturing sector in America here it is, printed in black and white for all to see. We simply cannot continue to give up ground, as there soon may be no remaining ground to give up.

The backbone and financial strength of our Nation has traditionally been our innovative skills and manufacturing prowess. We have previously been the envy of the world. Now, our once dominant textile and consumer products industries are almost gone and for the first time, our mainstay domestic automobile industry has been surpassed.

Many American companies are now utilizing customer service, accounting, billing and engineering firms in foreign countries due to lower costs and enhanced phone and internet capabilities. Two large manufacturing companies with operations here in South Carolina are now using an India-based company for their accounts receivable and payable. It may be a cost savings for them, but the service levels have dropped and a corresponding number of American professionals and workers have been relieved of their jobs.

What is next? Where is this all going?

How much longer will we read such articles and do or say nothing? If this matters to you, my fellow American tax-payer, speak up. Our collective voices need to be heard.