Nearly a quarter of a century ago, Ola Yoder founded Kountry Wood Products out of his barn in Nappanee. Today, Kountry Wood Products produces 1.4 million American-made kitchen cabinets a year, operates 250,000 combined square feet of factory space and has given new life to the same small Hoosier town where we employ nearly 600 great American workers.
Ola Yoder’s dream of providing high quality, American made products that satisfy his customers is alive and well with the recent announcement of a $14 million expansion. This would not have been possible without the U.S. government taking action to curb unfair international trade practices by China. Prior to the U.S. government imposing duties, China had taken over more than 40% of the domestic industry and put it on the brink of collapse. However, a looming decision by the Biden Administration has the potential to reverse course, crippling the thriving domestic cabinet industry and the hard-working Indiana communities who depend on its well-paying jobs to provide for their families. With Indiana being the No.1 cabinet producing state in America, the ripple effects of that decision will directly impact thousands of Indiana families.
In 2020, the International Trade Commission and the United States Department of Commerce found that China’s predatory trade practices were harming the domestic kitchen cabinet industry to the tune of $4.4 billion annually. As a result, the federal government imposed significant anti-dumping and countervailing duties to protect American workers and their families.
These duties have allowed the kitchen cabinet industry in America to rebuild and flourish. Today, we support more than 250,000 American jobs and have a $12 billion industry. Recent investments that will create good paying, family sustaining jobs have been announced in Indiana, Alabama, South Dakota, Washington state and South Carolina.
In addition to Kountry Wood Products’ expansion, which includes a new building, finishing line, milling equipment and more, another Indiana-based company, MasterBrand, recently invested in a new 840,000-square-foot manufacturing and distribution center in Jackson, Ga., that is creating 400 jobs for the local economy.
South Dakota-based Showplace Cabinetry is making a $3 million expansion after record sales following the pro-American worker tariffs. Finally, family-owned Wellborn Cabinets just announced a $15 million expansion project that will ultimately create more than 200 jobs at the company’s Ashland, Ala., facility. The domestic cabinet industry is building back better and creating more good paying middle class jobs.
This year, the United States Department of Commerce is conducting the first administrative review of the 2020 duties. If the duties are altered in China’s favor, as has been proposed in preliminary results, the domestic kitchen cabinet industry stands to take a devastating blow that will reverse growth and put the jobs of 250,000 hardworking Americans at risk. Such a decision would disproportionately impact minority workers and underserved communities who represent more than 40% of our workforce nationwide.
Now is the time for President Biden to make good on his promise to be the most “pro-labor president” by holding China accountable and standing strong with the industry’s quarter of a million American workers. President Biden can protect American workers by maintaining the duties and tariffs already in place. When China cheats, America, and the people in it, lose.
We simply cannot allow China’s exploitative trade practices to reclaim control of our domestic cabinet industry and strip working families of the ability to pursue their own American dream.
Perry Miller is President of Kountry Wood Products in Indiana and the current President of the Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturers Association.