Manufacturing is alive and well in North America -- more on that later. But I always get a kick out of companies that serve odd or unusual niche markets. How about bowling balls, CDs and chopsticks, for example? Those great examples come today courtesy of a link sent by a Plastics Blog reader to "10 American Industries Still Hanging On," from Minyanville.com. A few of the products have plastics connections -- polycarbonate CDs and DVDs, for example:
The physical is dead, long live the download. That's what entertainment observers have been saying since the turn of the century and they're not wrong. Last year CD sales fell by 20% from 2009, marking the fourth year in a row of increasingly brutal decline. But despite this, Sony DADC this spring announced a $72 million expansion of its existing Terre Haute, Indiana, manufacturing plant, in which it makes compact discs, Blu-ray equipment, video games and other electronics, while employing some 1,312 people (the planned expansion will add another 100 jobs). Why? Well, partly, it's just consolidation. With the closing of its Pittman, New Jersey compact disc plant, Sony DADC is merely shifting operations east (and shedding 200 jobs - the Pittman plant employed 300 people). And partly, it's a question of demographics. You, future-embracing consumer that you are, may be eager to embrace the world of on-demand downloads or dodgy torrents, but Aunt Gertrude in Duluth is going to be hanging on to those newfangled CDs until the day she dies. And there are a heck of a lot of Aunt Gertrudes out there, with a good decade or so left in them.These aren't examples of booming industries -- there's global competition for pencils, socks, ironing boards, sneakers, pianos, sparklers and electrical relays (the other examples cited in the article). The reader who sent me the link said she thought the article was very interesting, but also a bit sad. Still, there are plenty of North American manufacturing success stories. Think of that the next time you break out the Georgia-made chopsticks at your favorite Chinese restaurant.