Missouri Nail Factory Manager On Steel Tariffs
KORVA COLEMAN, HOST:
Mid Continent Nail Corporation produces half the nails made in the United States at its factory in southeast Missouri. On June 1, President Trump imposed new tariffs on steel imports. In the following two weeks, Mid Continent's sales went down by half, causing over 100 workers to lose their jobs. Chris Pratt is Mid Continent's operations general manager, and he joins us from his home in Poplar Bluff, Mo.
Thank you for coming on the program, sir.
CHRIS PRATT: Thank you for having me. I appreciate it.
COLEMAN: What exactly is a 232 tariff?
PRATT: A 232 tariff is a tariff that is imposed by the president. He imposed that tariff on steel and aluminum.
COLEMAN: Mr. Pratt, why did the new tariffs hurt your company's sales so badly?
PRATT: Well, Section 232 tariffs only affect steel, not finished goods, so when we tried to pass on that 25 percent, which - our customers, in the two-week period, canceled 50 percent of their orders for June because they could buy import nails that are not subject to the 232 tariff. You know, right now, we're fighting 232 tariffs imposed by our own president, which, in turn, has allowed steel producers to raise their price 30 percent, as well.
COLEMAN: I'm sorry. Did you say that American steelmakers are increasing their prices by 30 percent?
PRATT: That's correct.
PRATT: Because they can. When import supply is eliminated, that just gave them the ability to raise their price 25 percent, and they capitalized on it and raised it even more.
COLEMAN: Do you think tariffs make the United States better off, even if they hurt your company's bottom line?
PRATT: Well, I think some tariffs do. I think this is a misguided policy. It was not thought out well. Of course, it helps the big steel companies, but it's going to affect all the downstream manufacturing jobs. You know, we're asking for help for them to grant our exclusions that we filed. And it can be approved by President Trump just by signing the exclusion, and that's what we're asking him to do.
COLEMAN: Mr. Pratt, will the people who lost their jobs at Mid Continent be able to find jobs elsewhere?
PRATT: It will be tough in our area. I mean, it's an area of 17,000 people. We're the second-largest employer in the area, employing over 500 at one time. And it will be tough for them to find other jobs.
COLEMAN: In the 2016 election, Donald Trump got 80 percent of the vote in Poplar Bluff and in surrounding counties. Has local support for President Trump changed because of what is happening to your company?
PRATT: Several of our employees have been interviewed by different media groups, and, you know, most of those employees have said that they voted for Trump and they still support Trump, but they want him to see what's going on, look at what he's doing to our company, to them, to the individual and to all the ancillary suppliers that we have, as well. I think they still support him at this point. But if it gets to the point where they lose their jobs, I think the support in our area is going to diminish. You know, if it was me, and I'd lost my job, my support for him would have diminished, as well.
COLEMAN: Do you have hope that your company will be able to survive this?
PRATT: You know, this is an over-30-year-old company that has survived in the United States by fighting for its cause - for U.S. manufacturing jobs. And all this time, we have been growing, even competing with imports until this 25 percent tariff was put into effect. All we're asking right now is for the president to do what he has - his power. He has the power to sign exclusions that we filed and save our manufacturing jobs in Poplar Bluff. I know there are many, many other exclusions filed by other companies, and they're needing their exclusions signed, as well. But, you know, right now, I'm fighting for our 500 jobs and myself. I feel personally responsible for those jobs, and I'm going to do everything I can to save those jobs. And that's what I'm going to do.
COLEMAN: That was Chris Pratt, operations general manager of Mid Continent Nail Corp. Thank you, Mr. Pratt.
PRATT: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.