Holland, Michigan made national news earlier this month in a New York Times article featuring factories that have been hurt by President Trump’s tariffs on Chinese steel. Because of its history as an industrial center, Holland and the surrounding western Michigan area were initially receptive to Trump’s promise to protect American businesses by taking a tough line with China. Now many of the factory owners who hoped Trump would help their industries have seen his strategy backfire, raising their costs and slashing their profits.
How did a plan that was designed to protect factories from offshore competitors end up harming them instead? The tariffs did, in a way, accomplish what Trump intended by giving U.S. steel producers an advantage, but this advantage has come at the expense of American companies that rely heavily on foreign imports of steel parts. The owner of the Holland-based factory Agritek, Larry Kooiker, claims that American steelmakers are taking advantage of their new leverage to raise their prices. Other factory owners report that some of the components they use in their products aren’t produced domestically at all, and they’ve become much more expensive to obtain because of the tariffs. All of this translates to higher costs of production, which could prove disastrous for these businesses.
Now, in an ironic and troubling turn of events, factories across western Michigan are decreasing purchases, losing bids to foreign competitors and considering moving elsewhere. Among the companies hurt by the tariffs is EBW Electronics, a family-owned business in Holland that has been considering shifting its production to Mexico. “I just feel so betrayed,” said the company’s chairman Pat LeBlanc in an interview with the New York Times. “If we fail because the company is being harmed by the government, that just makes me sick.”