Steel Companies Feeling Hurt From Trade Dispute With China

More than 8,000 Connecticut jobs are directly dependent on trade with China.

Connecticut, like so many other states, is heavily reliant on exports to China.

In all, Connecticut’s economy provides an estimated $1.5 billion in exports, with $900 million of that coming in the form of goods.

Doug Barry, with the U.S. China Business Council, which boasts numerous Connecticut employers as members, says the state has a lot to lose if the tariffs remain in place, and the trade dispute continues.

"Connecticut is a shining example of the growth of that trade because the trade with China over the last 10 years has grown by 111 percent versus about 20 percent to other parts of the world,” Barry said.

In all, more than 8,000 jobs are directly dependent on trade with China.

"In the case of Connecticut, the exports are in the value added side. A lot of technical goods are going to China, they have a lot of value added in them. They generate a lot of employment in the State of Connecticut. They are going to be adversely affected by the 25 percent tariff."

One company directly dealing with the fallout is Ulbrich Steel. The company is a steel and metal manufacturer with operations in Wallingford, but it also has offices all over the world.

CEO Chris Ulbrich says the biggest issue with tariffs is the lack of predictability.

“I think that's one of the hardest things that's outside of our control, like 9/11, you know,” Ulbrich said during an interview last week. “And our business went down 60 percent, the tariffs, out of our control and things happen that we have no control over, and our employees don't have control over."

Ulbrich produces specialized steel products for many different industries including medical devices, cell phones, and the aerospace industry. Ulbrich metals were used in knives during World War II, and were on two LEMs that landed on the moon. The steel has also been used on SpaceX aircraft.

Chris Ulbrich says he has seen domestic manufacturers increase their prices, and Ulbrich as a company has had to both absorb the 25 percent tariff in some cases on imports from China, and pass it on to customers. Ulbrich says he had long conversations with vendors and customers about the issue. He says he’s starting to notice a shift.

“It's just really starting right now that automotive is slowing down, some of the key economy is slowing down. Some of the auto parts people have 20 plants so now they're saying, you know what? let's shit some machines around to different countries and we can avoid some of these tariffs.”

Ulbrich says his company will weather the storm because they have diversified, but he said he keeps wondering if more will impact his business.

“How do we control things and how do we readjust, readjust our business."

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