Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Chopsticks! Now Proudly Made in the USA!

 

I’m not sure whether this is a sign of the decline of the American manufacturing machine, or a sign of its resurgence, but either way, we’re finally making something that the Chinese are willing to buy.  From Time magazine:

It seems everything we buy these days says “Made in China.” But millions of the Asian nation’s iconic chopsticks are proudly made in the U.S.A.

Two hours south of Atlanta lies the source of millions of Chinese chopsticks. Who would have thought? It’s hard to imagine a place more quintessentially red, white and blue – the town, nestled firmly in the heartland of Georgia, is called Americus.

And their luck runs as deep as their love for country: Americus has the ideal type of wood for making chopsticks. The abundant forests of poplar and sweet gum trees in the area strike the perfect balance between hardness and softness, making a comfortable yet sturdy eating utensil for many across the world.

What’s more, the region is no stranger to wood harvesting, with pine manufacturers and paper corporations – think Georgia-Pacific – helping to ease the industry’s barriers to entry.  Jae Lee created Georgia Chopsticks in November and is already producing 2 million chopsticks each day. They’re selling their craft primarily to Chinese supermarkets but also are helping hungry people in Japan, Korea and the U.S.

Wait a minute.  ”Abundant” forests?  ”Wood harvesting?”  Big paper corporations helping “ease” the company’s operations?  

How long before the Obama administration finds out about this and shuts it down?

There are 17 comments.

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  1. jonsouth Inactive

    In a few decades and with a little more economic development, perhaps the USA could advance from wooden chopstick production to servicing the more sophisticated Korean metal chopstick market.

    • #1
    • June 6, 2011, at 1:59 AM PDT
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  2. KarlUB Inactive

    To those that think our approach to trade is a good idea…

    Rob Long

    I’m not sure whether this is a sign of the decline of the American manufacturing machine, or a sign of its resurgence…

    This clearly means the opportunity cost the Chinese have over the US in low-margin items is degrading.

    In other words, in the wonderful world of (one-sided) free international trade there is nothing more high-margin for the workers of Americus to do than make chopsticks. Personally, I would prefer they be working on HD televisions, DVD lasers, microprocessors, or even, perhaps, doing relatively low-margin business of actually assembling an ‘American’ iPod.

    But, alas, here are their top employers as of 2009, according to Wikipedia:

    1 Sumter County Schools (the Gov’t) 950
    2 Cooper Lighting (Yay!) 600
    3 Habitat for Humanity (Jimmy Carter) 400
    4 Wal-Mart (min. wage) 399
    5 Phoebe Sumter Medical Center (servicing old people) 396
    6 Magnolia Manor (servicing old people) 375
    7 Georgia Southwestern State University (The Gov’t) 280
    8 Southern Star Community Services (the Gov’t) 253
    9 Sumter County (the Gov’t) 235
    10 City of Americus (the Gov’t) 195
    • #2
    • June 6, 2011, at 4:35 AM PDT
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  3. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Some of my relatives lived in Americus for many years, and they are the last people I’d expect to see using chopsticks. Such are the wonders of a free market.

    • #3
    • June 6, 2011, at 6:05 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  4. Stuart Creque Member
    Stuart Creque Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I had dinner last night in a great little Korean BBQ joint in Fremont, CA. The chopsticks were aluminum.

    • #4
    • June 6, 2011, at 6:07 AM PDT
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  5. Misthiocracy got drunk and Member
    Misthiocracy got drunk and Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Hmm… I just checked my kitchen cupboard, and the chopsticks I buy are clearly labelled “Made in China”.

    However, I think it’s a safe bet that they’re made from North American (British Columbian?) wood.

    • #5
    • June 6, 2011, at 6:12 AM PDT
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  6. Misthiocracy got drunk and Member
    Misthiocracy got drunk and Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member
    Stuart Creque: I had dinner last night in a great little Korean BBQ joint in Fremont, CA. The chopsticks were aluminum. · Jun 5 at 6:07pm

    Really? I thought aluminum was verboten for cooking and eating utensils, as it has been linked to Alzheimer’s Disease.

    Not that I have any factual information to back that assertion up. It’s just one of those things that they tend to say. Whoever they are.

    • #6
    • June 6, 2011, at 6:14 AM PDT
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  7. Matthew Gilley Inactive
    Rob Long

    How long before the Obama administration finds out about this and shuts it down?

    Nah. The administration won’t shut it down. They’ll demand that Georgia Chopsticks voluntarily recognize the Steelworkers or some such as its employees’ exclusive bargaining representative. Then they’ll slap punitive tariffs on chopsticks imported to the U.S. because, after all, they’ll have to throw the union a bone for donating so much of these employees’ union dues to Democrats. At the same time, they’ll continue to sit on the South Korean free trade agreement for the same reason. Then, when Georgia Chopsticks begins to die on the vine and contemplates shuttering its business, the administration will threaten to file unfair labor practices because of Georgia Chopsticks’ blatant union animus.

    No, they won’t shut it down – but they may bleed it to death like a medieval barber.

    • #7
    • June 6, 2011, at 6:29 AM PDT
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  8. Jimmy Carter Member
    Jimmy Carter Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    We make their chopsticks with Our trees, and they make Our cutlery with their mercury.

    • #8
    • June 6, 2011, at 6:34 AM PDT
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  9. Jan-Michael Rives Inactive

    (In Mandarin) “These damned Americans are stealing our jobs! We should put up tariffs to protect our Chinese workers.”

    • #9
    • June 6, 2011, at 7:05 AM PDT
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  10. jetstream Inactive

    Rob – Wait a minute. “Abundant” forests? “Wood harvesting?” Big paper corporations helping “ease” the company’s operations?

    How long before the Obama administration finds out about this and shuts it down?

    Shhhhhh, probably too late. You know that you are on their enemies list and they are monitoring your every word … and now they know. It’s best not to give them any more bad ideas. The only chance for redemption here is their list of really bad ideas is so long the above will be lost or forgotten.

    Have you checked the ice cubes in your martinis lately … better to be “shaken, not stirred”, hurts their pointy little ears.

    • #10
    • June 6, 2011, at 8:05 AM PDT
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  11. Caroline Thatcher
    Caroline Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Americus, Georgia….home of Jimmy Carter and chopsticks. There’s got to be a joke there somewhere.

    • #11
    • June 6, 2011, at 8:06 AM PDT
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  12. outstripp Inactive
    Stuart Creque: I had dinner last night in a great little Korean BBQ joint in Fremont, CA. The chopsticks were aluminum. · Jun 5 at 6:07pm

    Duh! Koreans aren’t Chinese. Koreans always use metal chopsticks.

    • #12
    • June 6, 2011, at 8:22 AM PDT
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  13. KarlUB Inactive

    You know, I just noticed that Cooper– the only real private employer on that list– is itself a good story of the long decline of a once-great American company. Read the link.

    To recap: Amongst the top 10 employers in Americus, there is no healthy, high-margin employer. As a result, they have been reduced to scavenging natural resources and making chopsticks, which sounds to me like something that would have happened in Taiwan circa 1965 before they put together a decent economy. But they were on the way up.

    Which way do you think Americus, GA is headed? Perhaps they will get into turpentine and cotton next.

    • #13
    • June 6, 2011, at 8:31 AM PDT
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  14. Stuart Creque Member
    Stuart Creque Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    outstripp Stuart Creque: I had dinner last night in a great little Korean BBQ joint in Fremont, CA. The chopsticks were aluminum. · Jun 5 at 6:07pm Duh! Koreans aren’t Chinese. Koreans always use metal chopsticks. Well, excuuuuuuse me! First time I’d seen aluminum chopsticks: they seemed like an excellent idea to me. Glad that the entire Korean nation agrees.

    • #14
    • June 6, 2011, at 11:24 AM PDT
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  15. KarlUB Inactive

    Man, I sure know how to kill dead a nice, lighthearted thread.

    • #15
    • June 7, 2011, at 9:01 AM PDT
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  16. Misthiocracy got drunk and Member
    Misthiocracy got drunk and Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member
    wilber forge: Why eat with sticks anyway ? Some retro statement on civilized food intake…Maybe ? · Jun 6 at 12:08pm

    I use chopsticks sometimes when my sink is full of dirty dishes and I’m too lazy to clean some cutlery. They’re simple to use, easy to store, disposable (not to mention biodegradable), and they’re made from renewable resources.

    I’m surprised the White House hasn’t made them mandatory for all Americans.

    • #16
    • June 7, 2011, at 11:20 AM PDT
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  17. wilber forge Member
    wilber forge Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    What ever happened to the Spork ? Gastly things….

    Why eat with sticks anyway ? Some retro statement on civilized food intake…Maybe ?

    • #17
    • June 7, 2011, at 12:08 PM PDT
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