A tour of The Rodon Group in Hatfield hammered home the importance of manufacturing products in the United States.
On National Manufacturing Day this month, the maker of plastic injection molds and K’NEX construction toys hosted an event that showcased the high-tech, automated features of its plant but also revealed the benefits of keeping manufacturing in the region with globally competitive prices.
In fact, by investing heavily in technology, The Rodon Group is able to produce more products here.
“We’re now exporting to China because we made those investments over time,” said Michael Araten, president and CEO of The Rodon Group and K’NEX Brands. “One of our core values is community; that’s what drove our need to move manufacturing here.”
The “Made in the USA” brand is an extremely powerful brand, he said.
“People all know someone during the recession that lost their jobs overseas,” Araten said.
One thing people can control is their purchasing power, he said.
“We’re tapping into that trend” with USA-made products, Araten said.
However, today’s manufacturing jobs are not your grandmother or grandfather’s factory jobs. These jobs require high level science and technology skills, with many machines entirely computer-controlled.
Manufacturers are looking for people who have these skills and want to work in clean, well-lit facilities in a problem-solving environment.
Overall, Araten, was optimistic about the growth of manufacturing in the U.S.
“America’s best days, I think, are ahead of us,” he said.
Competition from other countries may have stifled manufacturing growth and forced American companies to lay off workers, but it inspired one CEO to start the American Made Matters movement.
China entered the headwear manufacturing market in a big way in the early 2000s, said Don Rongione, CEO of Bollman Hat Co., a manufacturer of men’s and women’s hats in Adamstown.
To combat this heavy competition, he launched The American Made Matters movement on July 4, 2009, to encourage people to buy American-made products. The movement has 200 members in all manufacturing industries and represents 38 states, he said.
“Our mission is to educate consumers that buying American-made products strengthens the economy,” Rongione said.
The movement is made up of American manufacturing companies and allows for the American Made Matters logo to be used on products for which at least 50 percent of the cost (labor, materials and overhead) is incurred in the U.S. – and its final assembly or transformation also takes place in the U.S., according to Rongione.
“There’s definitely a stronger awareness among Americans on the importance [of buying products made in the USA],” he said.
The movement is designating Nov. 19 as American Made Matters Day, with the goal of getting consumers to buy at least one American-made product on that day to show support for American manufacturing.
By opening its doors to tours on Manufacturing Day, companies such as The Rodon Group allow everyone to see manufacturing up close, said John Grant, manager of government affairs for the Society of the Plastics Industry: The Plastics Industry Trade Association in Washington, D.C.
People also can see that manufacturers make high-quality products and offer well-paying jobs, Grant said, adding that the plastics industry shipped $373 billion in products last year.
“There’s a misperception that we are solely a consumer nation,” he said. “Plastics is a leader in the industry.”