CALEDONIA — President Donald Trump’s tariff battle, or trade war, with China and other nations is not working out well for at least one local company, Quick Cable Corp.
In the latest example of unintended consequences from the new tariffs, Quick Cable is reeling from the realization that it would pay nearly $250,000 more than expected for parts it ordered from China earlier this year, CEO Mark Cuthbert said Tuesday.
The results, Cuthbert said, could be some combination of reduced capital investment in the local plant and headquarters, reduced revenues and possible job cuts.
Quick Cable, at 3700 Quick Drive in the Caledonia Business Park, sells connectors, cable and wire, portable power packs, fuses and accessories and more. The employer of 130 people is both a manufacturer and distributor to numerous industries including renewable energy, power generation, aviation, agriculture, automotive, construction and material handling.
To fill in the gaps in its manufactured lines, Quick Cable buys and distributes other parts from specialists, Cuthbert explained. Some of those parts manufacturers are in China.
Cuthbert said Quick Cable has just discovered that it will pay about $250,000 more for imported parts it ordered earlier this year because of Trump’s first round of tariffs and retaliatory reactions by U.S. trading partners, if the local company goes through with those purchases. “Most orders have 60 to 90 days’ lead time,” he said. “It’s just hitting now.”
To try to jump out of the way of higher parts prices, Quick Cable is trying to find new suppliers, particularly in India, for some of what it buys abroad. Cuthbert is sure they won’t be able to replace them all.
“Then we have a very difficult decision, to absorb them or pass them on,” he said. “And there are limits to passing it on.”
If Quick Cable opts to absorb the higher parts costs, it will reduce its planned capital investment in new equipment, Cuthbert said. The company has invested more than $1 million in the past 12 months and had planned to do about the same amount in the coming 12 months, he said.
Another option, Cuthbert said, is to decide that it’s not financially viable to be involved in certain sections of the market. “But then you have revenue losses and possible job losses.”
Quick Cable is not alone in saying the tariffs Trump has slapped on China and the European Union are endangering U.S. jobs. Milwaukee-based Harley-Davidson said Monday it will shift some motorcycle production to factories outside the United States. The company said in a regulatory filing that it’s shifting production of motorcycles heading to Europe from the United States to overseas factories because EU tariffs on its motorcycles exported from the U.S. have surged from 6 percent to 31 percent. The tariffs are adding about $2,200 in costs per motorcycle exported from the U.S. to the EU.
To Cuthbert, there is no silver lining in Quick Cable’s current situation. “The parts we source are so inexpensive and labor intensive that no amount of tariffs are going to bring those jobs back to the U.S.,” he said.
“So, there are tariffs and counter-tariffs,” Cuthbert said, “and they’re not going to lead to anything but a lot of aggravation and frustration for our employees.”