Letters to the Editor: Hold China Accountable for Section 301 Tariffs, Look Beyond Supply Chain Challenges

Since the start of the pandemic, I’ve seen and heard (through Crain’s Cleveland Business, etc.) that businesses large and small are deciding to close, downsize or pause expansion – and the number one reason that they cite are supply chain issues.

Don’t get me wrong, the supply chain has been stretched and stressed, but please don’t blame it. There’s always a way – and there always has been a way – to get everything you want and need, even in the face of a global pandemic. Now, is it worth the cost of rerouting or finding alternatives? It’s a different problem, but it’s not caused by the supply chain.

What is the supply chain? It is a full process of steps from factory identification, selection, production, inspection/QC, factory-port logistics, ocean freight, inland port and customs clearance, then the inland transportation.

Do you think the Port of Long Beach in California was sailing efficiently and smoothly before the pandemic? Do you think China is the only place where you can get bottles, foil, aluminum cans or other goods? Do you realize that there are thriving factories in Latin America, the Philippines, Vietnam – and yes, Taiwan and China – if only you know how to find them, check them out, and get what you need? Hint: It’s not Alibaba or websites like them. We operate in a global economy, and that will not change.

It’s so common in this country to want to blame someone or something for our misfortunes. It’s because of him or an event (war in Ukraine, COVID pandemic, longshoremen’s strike, etc.). No. The reality is that you quit. You decided it wasn’t worth it, you didn’t want to move on, find another way, look for alternatives. To be clear, it’s your choice, but it wasn’t the supply chain. Problems are always linked to opportunities if you choose to look and act, not give up.

This country was built on the back of manufacturing (my family was made up of steelworkers from Gary, Indiana). And let’s face it, those days are over.

Relocating and bringing manufacturing back to the US sounds great – and I totally agree – but just ask Intel how their $20 billion investment project outside of Columbus is working for them. Ohio should roll out the red carpet and Intel should choose the office furniture at this point. But the deal was delayed until recently due to congressional wrangling over funding. If this is how our government is working on reshoring, I’m not exactly optimistic for small and medium-sized businesses anytime soon.

But there is another critical challenge facing many companies that puts domestic manufacturing at a disadvantage compared to its global counterparts: a severe labor shortage. Twenty bucks an hour to work at Taco Bell—and they can’t hire anyone, so they close at 7 p.m.?

Here’s a question for the reader: How impressed have you been with customer service interactions lately? Everywhere? In-store, online, airline reservations, etc. ? Right now, only the biggest of America’s big companies can (and they are) afford to overpay for workers — some good, many mediocre. And that leaves many small, medium, and medium-large businesses desperate for employees.

My humble request — DON’T STOP — participate! Find a partner who can help you locate, vet and inspect global suppliers to position your business for the next generation and beyond. Oh, and don’t believe everything you see or hear on the news. This is a great time to capture market share.

E. David Marinac

President and CEO

ABC Direct Packaging

The overseas network

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