Can American manufacturers, paying fair wages, abiding by environmental regulations and paying their fair share of U.S. taxes compete against Chinese-government backed companies determined to rule this alternative energy field?
Aeronautica Wind Power, LLC., based in Plymouth, Mass. is a company that designs and builds wind turbines. A small group of extremely bright, innovative entrepreneurs started this company to provide domestic alternative energy sources to the U.S. and abroad.
The current Administration has long promoted the idea of developing alternative energy solutions for America and is a big proponent of all the new green jobs to be created in America. President Obama ran much of his presidential campaign on the idea that large number of private sector jobs would be created from this green industry sector. Americans recognize this as an important sector for growth.
What is important to acknowledge and what many don't realize is that the U.S. manufacturers and innovators in the green and alternative energy sector are facing the same up-hill challenges that domestic manufactures have had to face for decades. Serious challenges in trade and competition are not going away or magically disappearing overnight.
Serious challenges like currency manipulation, low wage work force and slavery, aggressive out-pricing/ out-bidding practices, flooding and saturating whole markets with cheaper/underpriced goods, and open refusal to pay tariffs. These challenges provide foreign manufacturers and importers a very big and unfair advantage over domestic manufacturers. This advantage has led many companies to close their doors and cause entire industries to become virtually extinct in the United States. Some examples include the manufacturing of televisions or phones. There used to be a time, not long ago, when the U.S. manufactured televisions and phones, however now they are gone --EXTINCT!
As an advocate for U.S. manufactures, I was saddened by a December 2010, New York Times article entitled: "Wind Power for Boston, Made in China." The article explained how Sinovel, a state-owned company based in Beijing which is China's largest wind turbine manufacturer, had signed a contract with the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority to provide a 1.5-megawatt wind turbine. The Chinese wind turbine is proposed to provide electricity for a wastewater pumping station in the Charlestown neighborhood of Boston.
I thought this was not only extremely sad but, ironic that the city of Boston, home of the "Original Tea Party" would choose to purchase wind turbines from a Chinese company rather than one that was right in their backyard like Aeronautica Wind Power, LLC., which is an American owned and operated wind turbine manufacturer based less than 40 miles from the city of Boston in Plymouth, Mass.
However I was actually not surprised as this is the very common practice by both large multinational companies and our government which has completely destroyed our domestic manufacturing base and caused the U.S. to hemorrhage 2.4 million manufacturing jobs and counting since 2001.
The NY Times article goes on to state that "Sinovel, with a $6.5 billion line of credit from banks owned by the Chinese government, has said its goal was to become the world's largest manufacturer of wind turbines by 2015. It also said it intended to eventually realize half of its sales beyond China's borders."
So, Sinovel, backed by the Chinese government with a $6.5 billion dollar line of credit, is certainly going to give American wind turbine companies a hard fight. Aeronautica Windpower, LLC. , for example struggled for years to acquire funding to meet their needs and demand. Requests for government assistance or contracts went largely unheard or ignored. So, how is a small privately held American manufacturing company, paying fair wages to American workers, abiding by United States environmental regulations and paying their fair share of U.S. taxes supposed to compete with a Chinese government backed company with a $6.5 billion credit line?
There is no doubt that American companies manufacturing products here in the United States face an uphill battle as, China is making it no secret that it wants to dominate the world in manufacturing and innovation in the green, alternative energy sector. But there are bright spots such as manufacturers, like Aeronautica Windpower building, innovating, and exporting wind turbines despite these massive challenges. I am happy to see their success, because I know that companies like Aeronautica are innovators and U.S. job creators!
Recntly Aeronautica Windpower announced that Cape Verde Wind had chosen their 47-750kW Wind Turbine Generators for high penetration, hybrid wind/diesel applications to supply clean, efficient, and reliable power to the people of Cape Verde. The initial purchase order of 15 units will provide 11.2 megawatts of power for this $22 million project, with more planned for installation in 2012 and 2013.
This small innovative American company out of Plymouth, MA was granted a $22 million project to export their Wind Turbines to the Cape Verde Islands and were not selected to supply the wind turbines for the city of Boston, their neighboring city.
This gives me hope for our U.S. manufacturers in every sector and demonstrates that without a doubt -- the "Made in USA" label is still highly respected and desired all over the world.
It is up to our domestic manufacturers to capitalize on this. Not only do 72% of American consumers say that they will pay more for a product "Made in USA" and that the claim positively influences their purchase decision according to a Gallup Poll, additionally the label still has cache around the world. It still stands for quality worldwide.
Aeronautica Windpower, is one powerful example of a U.S. manufacturing company, fighting for survival with little help or incentives from the U.S. government. Nonetheless, their success proves that companies can still "Make it in the U.S.A" and that we certainly can't "out innovate" or "out build" the rest of the world unless we are "making things."
Julie Reiser is president and co-founder of Made in USA Certified, Inc., which is an independent, non-partisan, leading third party certification company for the Made in USA, Product of USA and Service in USA claims.