JEFFERSONVILLE — A Jeffersonville company is telling national media outlets that it’s had to lay off 75 employees since February because of tariffs.
The CEO of Brinly-Hardy Co., which was founded in 1893 in Kentucky, but has been manufacturing lawncare accessories in Jeffersonville for 20 years, originally testified before the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative in July about the damages tariffs have been wreaking on her business.
Jane Hardy warned that the taxes on imported goods could be the “nail in our coffin” for her company, as prices have risen by as much as 37 percent for the domestic steel that Brinly-Hardy uses. The United States has imposed steel and aluminum tariffs on foreign imports of the materials, which has reduced competition and raised prices for domestic steel.
Since the D.C. hearing, Hardy has talked to both the Washington Post and National Public Radio, telling the outlets that the tariffs have also increased the price of wheels and plastic parts for Brinly-Hardy, as well as complete products the company imports from Asia.
The News and Tribune reached out to Hardy, but was directed to the news stories already written about her company.
A newer, $16 billion list of tariffs proposed by President Donald Trump’s administration could further sink Brinly-Hardy. The CEO told NPR that tariffs could be the end of her company if they continued for “much longer.” The fall season is coming up for Brinly-Hardy, which used to employ 200 people, and Hardy isn’t sure if the company will survive it.
In response to the tariffs, Brinly-Hardy has cut salaries for employees and eliminated a second production shift, laying off 37 percent of her staff, many of whom worked in production.
Hardy told the Washington Post she can’t raise prices for her products because foreign competitors would undercut her. This, she said in her hearing, according to Bloomberg, would further threaten Brinly-Hardy’s ability to make money and remain in business.
Wendy Dant Chesser, the president and CEO of One Southern Indiana, learned about the company’s layoffs from the Washington Post article.
“[Brinly-Hardy has] been a company that’s weathered a lot of storms and this is one, unfortunately, they haven’t been able to weather without layoffs,” she said.
Dant Chesser said that Trump’s tariffs create “winners and losers” on the local level. So far, though, she hasn’t heard from any local companies that are benefitting from the tariffs, although she added that businesses aren’t as likely to brag when their neighbors are suffering.
Layoffs from other companies in the area could still be possible, she said.
On NPR, Hardy said she supported U.S. manufacturing and the need to change China’s intellectual property practices, two reasons Trump has given for imposing tariffs, but she thinks they probably won’t strengthen the domestic production of goods.
“We are caught in the middle of this trade battle,” she said at the hearing. “Our U.S. manufacturing jobs and our 179-year history should not be considered acceptable collateral damage.”
The tone is different at U.S. Steel, the country’s oldest manufacturer of the material, which has three Indiana facilities. On Wednesday, the company released its second quarter results, which showed that its profits rose by 38 percent. As tariffs have taken affect, the company has vowed to reopen two of its facilities in Illinois, bringing back 800 workers.
"We are encouraged by the Trump Administration's actions to address the threat to the US manufacturing base, our economic competitiveness and our national security from unfairly traded steel imports and global excess capacity," said the company in its announcement to investors about its second quarter results.
As a whole, Indiana could suffer from the tariffs. A study from Michael Hicks, a Ball State University economics professor, estimates that under the imposed taxes, Indiana’s GDP will drop by $668 million and the state will lose 14,000 jobs by 2019.
Last week, Trump did successfully meet with the European Commission president over tariffs. The two promised to work together toward zero tariffs on non-auto industrial goods. In a recent interview with the News and Tribune, Rep. Trey Hollingsworth said that the tariffs against China are an attempt to strike a deal with the country for better trade conditions, although no meetings between presidents have taken place yet.
As a band-aid, Trump has set aside $12 billion for farmers affected by the tariffs. There are talks of help being extended to other industries, but Hardy just wants to see the tariffs gone all together.
“We have felt the pain of the current trade war enough,” she said at the hearing. “Please prevent the closing of another U.S. manufacturer by not imposing tariffs.”