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Wednesday, November 6, 2019
Ahead of 2020, manufacturers are struggling in Rust Belt regions that helped Trump win last time
BETHEL PARK, Pa. – At Ameri-Source Metals’ machine shop outside Pittsburgh, stacks of graphite stubs have begun to pile up in a quiet corner.
Founder Ajay Goel said the customer who typically buys the stubs – a multinational chemicals company – now only needs one-fourth of the amount he used to produce. As a result, the machines have been idled and the workers who serviced them, laid off.
Goel has lived through many economic cycles before. In 1995, he founded the business, which cuts graphite and steel into bespoke shapes for industrial, chemical and defense companies,after being laid off from U.S. Steel. And with orders slowing – and an additional $3 million in tariff costs – he’s borrowing from a playbook he refined in leaner times.
“I think the first place will be where we make sure we really cut down on costs,” Goel told CNBC. “That particular cost-cutting started almost like six to eight months back.”
Goel says the company is also trying to deepen its customer relationships and pressing the pause button on certain areas of expansion. “We would like to replace machines faster, which we are not doing.”
Heading into 2020, stories like these could amount to big trouble for President Donald Trump’s reelection chances. Ameri-Source sits at the edge of deep-blue Allegheny County, but most employees commute from surrounding counties that backed Trump in 2016. It’s a familiar position for companies across the Rust Belt, the corridor of heavy industry whose blue-collar workers supported Trump’s manufacturing-friendly message and were critical to his swing state wins.
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