BUSINESS

World Kitchen holding its own with China

PAT FRIDGEN

The glass industry in the United States is feeling the effects of the rapid growth of the same industry in China. According to statements from the Alliance for American Manufacturing, an unfair advantage overseas is the main cause of threatened jobs for Americans, because China has provided over $30 billion in subsidies to its companies.

Greencastle is part of the picture because of the presence of World Kitchen, located at 1200 S. Antrim Way. It is a distribution center for glass products. It may not have seen the same effects as other companies across the country.

The Economic Policy Institute asserts that approximately 30 percent of U.S. glass-related jobs have been contracted to China since 2001, making that country the largest glass industry host in the world.

EPI economist Robert Scott said, “Unless this subsidy problem is addressed and fair competition can be restored, glass manufacturers will face continuing pressures to downsize or close plants.”

The Greencastle World Kitchen Human Resources office referred comments to Jim Aikins, vice president of Global Human Resources at company headquarters in Rosemount, Ill.

Aikins saw the Chinese business explosion as positive. “World Kitchen has benefited from China’s economic growth this decade, as that country has become a larger market for exported glass products WK manufactures in the U.S., and other products WK distributes, including some that are sourced from Asian and European manufacturers.

“Today we have approximately the same number of employees at Greencastle and throughout the company as we had in 2001, although there has been some contraction over the last year due to the current recession.”

WK’s Web site says it employs 2,300 people at its operations in the U.S., Canada and Asia-Pacific regions. It makes and markets bakeware, dinnerware, kitchen and household tools, cookware and cutlery.

Aikins said WK, like most domestic manufacturers, has taken cost-saving measures because of the economy. “These have generated significant savings and helped us weather the economic storm.”

The company also discovered that during hard times, people tend to eat out less and cook more, which helped parts of their business.

WK in Greencastle distributes Pyrex, manufactured in Charleroi, and Corelle and CorningWare from Corning, N.Y.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that Pennsylvania jobs in the glass industry have dropped 45 percent since 2001, from 13,400 to 7,270. The national drop is 29 percent. West Virginia has been hit the hardest, with a 73 percent decrease in the number of jobs.

EPI says 40,000 American jobs went to China since 2001.