In a New York Times article about the increased cost of shipping (a 40-foot container now costs $8,000 to move from China to the U.S., compared to $3,000 just a few years ago) comes a bit of good news for manufacturing in our region:
Until recently, standard practice in the furniture industry was to ship American timber from ports like Norfolk, Baltimore and Charleston to China, where oak and cherry would be milled into sofas, beds, tables, cabinets and chairs, which were then shipped back to the United States.
But with transportation costs rising, more wood is now going to traditional domestic furniture-making centers in North Carolina and Virginia, where the industry had all but been wiped out. While the opening of the American Ikea plant, in Danville, Va., a traditional furniture-producing center hit hard by the outsourcing of production to Asia, is perhaps most emblematic of such changes, other manufacturers are also shifting some production back to the United States.
Among them is Craftmaster Furniture, a company founded in North Carolina but now Chinese-owned. And at an industry fair in April, La-Z-Boy announced a new line that will begin production in North Carolina this month.
“There’s just a handful of us left, but it has become easier for us domestic folks to compete,” said Steven Kincaid of Kincaid Furniture in Hudson, N.C., a division of La-Z-Boy.
The bad news is that China is basically outsourcing their labor to us, at least in the case of Craftmaster. But at least we’re back to getting some benefit from this. And if it’s economically viable for China to have their manufacturing done in Southside, surely it’s viable for a U.S. business to do the same.