Nov 15, 2018 - 9:00am

Our Nail Manufacturing Company is at Risk Because of Steel and Aluminum Tariffs


Operations General Manager, Mid Continent Steel & Wire, Inc.

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Nails travel along a vibrating platform.
Nails travel along a vibrating platform.

I am the operations manager for the largest nail manufacturer in the U.S., Mid Continent Steel & Wire, Inc. Over the past 12 years, our company has fought hard to survive in the face of unfair foreign competition. Not only have we survived, but we’ve thrived, actually doubling our workforce in the past five years. We had plans for further growth and were on a great path – in fact, my personal goal has been to see us double in size again – but then the Trump administration levied steel and aluminum tariffs, which took effect in June, and those plans drastically changed.

On June 1, President Trump placed 25% tariffs on certain kinds of steel, including the steel wire we use to manufacture our nails. Our costs shot up overnight, making it impossible for us to remain competitive. We absorbed as much of the cost increase as we could, but were forced to pass some of the cost along to our customers, who were already paying 5% - 7% more for American-made nails. Our loyal customers couldn’t afford to pay an additional 19% for our products, so they turned to low-priced imports from countries such as China, Taiwan, Oman, India, and Turkey. As a result, in just two weeks, our orders plummeted 50%, forcing us to lay off 60 people and completely idle one of our three plants. Today, we employ approximately 300 people, down from over 500 before the tariffs went into effect, and we have lost millions of dollars trying to keep things running.

In mid-June, we filed 24 applications to exclude the steel wire used to manufacture our nails from the 25% tariffs. That was over four months ago.

Today, while we have received positive indications from the administration that our requests will be granted, we are still waiting for answers from the Department of Commerce.

While Mid Continent Nail is committed to serving its customers and protecting its workers, the pressure and uncertainty caused by the tariffs is hard to ignore.

We understand that the goal of the tariffs was to help U.S. businesses, but we are seeing the very real, unintended consequences of the tariffs play out here in Poplar Bluff, Mo. Make no mistake, removing the steel and aluminum tariffs will be the quickest and most effective way to ensure Mid Continent – and numerous other small-and medium sized U.S. business – doesn’t become a casualty of this misguided policy.

About the Author

About the Author

Chris Pratt is the Operations General Manager at Mid Continent Steel & Wire, Inc., based in Poplar Bluff, Missouri.
Operations General Manager, Mid Continent Steel & Wire, Inc.
Chris Pratt is the Operations General Manager at Mid Continent Steel & Wire, Inc., based in Poplar Bluff, MO.