POPLAR BLUFF, Mo. — Amidst an ongoing trade war, Josh Hawley is urging a nail manufacturing company to keep their doors open and ride out the tariff negotiations.
In an August 20th letter sent to Deacero, who acquired Mid Continent Nail Corporation in 2012, the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate asked the family-owned business not to “let the good people of Poplar Bluff down and go back on your word.”
The Poplar Bluff-based plant has laid off about 160 workers since President Donald Trump’s tariffs on steel and aluminum imports began on June 1. The company now employs fewer than 340 workers, which is down from about 500 before the tariffs took effect.
There is talk that the plant could eliminate another 200 positions or even shut down completely.
But Hawley is urging the company to keeps its doors open.
“As a company with a global presence and many locations, Deacero is clearly not struggling to make ends meet. The reality is that Deacero can afford to keep the factory open, and in turn, help keep men and women employed who simply want to do right by their families and earn a living,” wrote Hawley.
He draws attention to two factors he saw as a concern when Deacero considers closing the Poplar Bluff plant.
The first concern Hawley had was that another one of Deacero’s brands, Aceros Nacionales, produces nails in Mexico. Hawley stated, “[t]he negotiation over tariffs should not be an excuse for you to kill American jobs and consolidate Deacero’s nail manufacturing to Mexico.”
The second concern Hawley had was over reports that Deacero was accused of dumping violations and fought with steel manufacturers over it. Hawley urged the company not to “make decisions based on previous grudges.”
“I hope these factors are not part of your deliberation come to Labor Day and that you will remember why Poplar Bluff provides a ‘competitive advantage,’” wrote Hawley. “The bottom line is that the employees at Mid Continent and their families are your competitive advantage.”
In response, Raul Gutierrez said that the company has always been dedicated to the people of Southeast Missouri.
“We have continued to keep the plant operating with a workforce far in excess of what is required considering we have lost more than half of our orders. We are losing money every month,” Gutierrez said in reply to Hawley’s letter.
The company is the last major nail supplier in the country and is one of the largest employers in Butler County. But the 25 percent tariffs placed on steel has increased the prices considerable leading customers to find cheaper nails elsewhere, such as in China, Taiwan, and India.
Mid Continent has filed 24 applications to be exempt from the tariffs on the steel wire used to manufacture its nails.
“As the company awaits word from U.S. Department of Commerce on approval for 24 exclusions, I strongly urge you to keep the factory open,” wrote Hawley. He added, “I have told the Trump Administration that Mid Continent makes a strong case for an exemption and I continue to urge the Department of Commerce to grant it quickly.”
Gutierrez said that company officials are meeting with Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross on Tuesday in hopes of convincing the Trump administration to grant exemptions. He wrote that the exemptions need to be approved quickly.
“After the exclusions are granted, we will resume the level of production and employment that prevailed prior to June 1,” Gutierrez wrote.
The current Missouri Attorney General toured the factory on Friday. Hawley’s opponent in the November general election has taken a different approach on the tariffs.
Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill toured the factory early in the year and sounded the alarm in June about Mid Continent’s tariff issues. She told company officials in June that “[t]hey’re chasing your customers into China’s arms.”
Read Hawley’s letter below:
Read Gutierrez‘s response below:
Alisha Shurr was a reporter for the Missouri Times and Missouri Times Magazine. She joined the Missouri Times in January 2018 after working as a copy editor for her hometown newspaper in Southern Oregon. Alisha is a graduate of Kansas State University.