Originally Published In The July 2013 Issue Of Cycle Source Magazine
With all the changes in the climate on the topic of the Buy American issue in the United States, it really gets people’s blood pumping when you start to talk about it. The fact that the boundaries of what is and or isn’t made in America have become so blurred, it pushes even like-minded people of the same industry to odds from time to time. This, like anything else however, is not a bad thing with the right lines of communication. Since this is our Buy American issue, I wanted to take a section and give a few of our friends in the industry a chance to speak on their findings in trying to buy or manufacture American parts today. It all started with a conversation I had with Kiwi Mike, so of course, he’s on deck for view point number one. Like I said, the important thing is not that you agree or disagree with anything said here, but that you yourself take on the responsibility of having the same conversations until we do figure it out.
Kiwi Mike – Quality Made In America
When I was a young lad still going to school in the land way down under (New Zealand), I used to help my father with his heavy equipment in quarries. My old man was very pro American so most of his equipment was American. We had a huge portable lime crushing plant, front end loaders, trucks, etc. which in many cases he greatly modified to work for our particular operation. He was a smart old bugger who to this day invented and built some very notable things. We never had a whole lot of money to buy new equipment so we had to buy things used, modify and rebuild it. As a young kid this gave me the skills to figure stuff out and watch master backyard old guys at work who introduced me to American made gear. When things broke, we did the repairs ourselves. If we needed replacement parts, we made sure they were American made because it stood for quality. This was many years ago in an era when made in America really did mean quality. Fast forward some years and I came to the U.S., got married, had a family, built a successful business, became a U.S. citizen and still believe in the American dream.
Over the years, I’ve come across products and folks who make items (not only in the motorcycle business) that in all truthfulness have come up way short in quality, yet these folks puff out their chest as proud papas and say, “It’s made in America.” These manufacturers are being arrogant and irresponsible which hurts the responsible companies. We have to be honest with ourselves here because if we want to improve our products, we need to be open, accept constructive criticism and act upon it in order to make improvements. I’ve made about 2000 different part numbers for Indian motorcycles and other things. I’ve had my fair share of what I would politely call “shit made in America” by outside and name brand suppliers. I can assure you that once I found out, they were promptly fired as my supplier. I don’t give 2nd chances on quality. This has disappointed me to no end as they were fellow Americans and I paid for their excellence. Whatever happened to that American made quality my dad always believed in? I believe in having an open mind and in buying American, however, making a quality product in America is the key point here. This is for the benefit of everyone especially when we sell that product overseas. We want to be sure that it is of the highest quality and to promote our country as a whole.
I believe in fair trade. We as Americans want to sell our products to the rest of the world and in turn, some of those countries’ manufacturers want to sell their products to the U.S. market. This is fair trade and I’m okay with that. I am not in agreement with unfair trade where countries want to flood our market with cheap stuff and then put trade barriers up to stop our products from getting in. A classic case of this is when their government imposes high import duties (taxes) on imported goods to keep foreign (our) products out. Here in the U.S., our government believes in free trade and we have low or in most cases, zero import duties. In return we expect those countries to do likewise but in many cases it is not so. We do have friendly trading nations, such as Canada to the north and Mexico to the south. Down Under we have New Zealand and Australia, and we also have many friends throughout Europe and some parts of Asia. Most countries love U.S.A. made products. As developing countries advance, their standard of living increases as does their buying power so if we keep producing quality American made products, our exports will grow as well. This has a direct effect on our little niche market called the motorcycle industry. In reality, it is super duper small in the big world of manufacturers, but if we all keep our noses clean and produce superior products, we will all benefit. I will leave you with a few thoughts. If you had a good product and a growing business, you would like the folks in another friendly country to buy your product. If they had a good product that you wanted to use or sell, you would like to import it. I believe in fair trade and quality parts made in America.
Bobby Seeger Jr. – Indian Larry Motorcycles
For me, making our products and trying to have them produced in America has been an uphill battle. We over here at Indian Larry Motorcycles have been looking to produce certain parts inside the country we happen to live in and we have hit many walls along the way. One would think we would know enough people that this wouldn’t be the case, but the reality of the situation is that certain things aren’t made here any longer. We have been introduced to some companies that give us an option of making it in America and “overseas.” We aren’t against shopping or making a few things outside our grasp, but come on, is this really where we are at? I understand business a little so I often wonder why. I have heard the words, “We take on your ideas no matter the size of your order,” but then it’s “Hey Bobby, we can’t do a few hundred pieces but we know someone…” I’ve had more middlemen trump other middlemen on possible deals making goods here and overseas. So far we have walked away, but we are seeking a resource on making parts.
We would rather do it locally before globally. I have been fortunate to travel in and out of many countries over the last 20 years and the changes, like here, are mind blowing. I like the tourist items when I do travel, but when I’m in places like Italy or Japan, it’s a bummer when I pick up a coffee cup and it says made in China. We end up making some things inside our shop or at least inside the 5 boroughs. After that it’s on to others inside the industry, first within the States, but then we look into other countries if necessary. This is a small world with some small-minded characters. We want to play well with others; after all we could eat off the same plate. Just the other day I saw a sad thing inside our local Home Depot. They had an American flag for sale and it was made in China. I had thought this kind of shit wasn’t happening anymore; I was wrong again. The way I see it today is the one making these purchase orders should be dragged behind a truck for buying our flag that was made in another country. I hope things turn around inside our beautiful country we live in while I’m still alive. Think locally & sell globally.
Paul Wideman – Bare Knuckle Choppers
Trying to condense my thoughts down to a few hundred words on this subject is incredibly difficult. Those three words mean everything to me and my family. We literally survive based upon the merits of the world buying American made parts. While blindly buying American is an act that many cannot fathom, it is an act that can benefit us all, especially when coupled with a desire to produce the best, and a government on our side. I most certainly believe in free trade. I actually believe in free everything, which boils down to as little government involvement as possible. With free trade should come tax incentives, reasonable policy, and a government that wants to bolster American manufacturing, rather than look at manufacturing as a “revenue source.” A working middle class driven by a country that promotes manufacturing will produce far more tax revenue than burdening companies with unrealistic tax liabilities and ridiculous regulations. Capitalism, when unhindered by parasitic government burden, has its own form of checks and balances.
A derivative of supply and demand is the demand for the best product. If you are supplying the best product on the market, most people will buy it, so long as the price is reasonable. If America is offering the best product for a reasonable price, her products will be purchased around the globe. Price is negatively affected when unfair duties are imposed, American manufacturers are held to more stringent environmental policies, and workforce standards are imbalanced from one country to the next. There is rarely an instance where our standards are too high, or another country’s standards too low. Most often it is a little of each. And how about we get all the kids off the damn video games and teach them how to do something?! As an employer I find it very difficult to hire any youngsters with any drive at all. I am very fortunate to have the two that I have right now, and I am teaching them all their little brains can handle, hoping that they will each someday be the best machinist or welder in the world. I don’t know where the desire to make something with our hands has gone, but it needs to return. Personally, I’d rather turn handles on a Bridgeport all day for $10/hour than flip burgers for $13/hour. Buy American, or Die.