A Swiss business executive once told me that Switzerland manufactures most of its products and doesn’t import much from China. His statement sounded a bit deceiving, so I looked it up and understood what he was trying to say. The country, it turns out, imports large quantities of raw materials—machinery, chemicals, metals, agricultural products, textiles—but most of it comes from the European Union. It then manufactures and exports medicinal and pharmaceutical products, watches and clocks, machinery, and tools. As a result, the company reported a trade surplus equivalent to 2.1 billion Swiss francs in December of 2011.
The Swiss still has a manufacturing base so prices for its goods are quite high, but wages are good so the citizens can afford to buy Swiss-made products. Conversely, the U.S. manufacturing base has eroded so we don’t produce as much as we once did and import most of our goods from abroad–mainly China. And when we do produce items on U.S. soil, it costs a pretty penny. If you don’t believe me, see Alden, Raleigh Denim, New Balance sneakers, Bill’s Khakis, Levis (particularly the selvedge stuff made in the Carolinas), Oxxford Clothing, Ghurka bags …well you get the point. I was reminded of this fact recently when I received my CB2 and Room & Board catalogs.
The Torino from CB2 is an attractive and modern-style desk with a top that slides away to reveal 9 square feet of storage space for small items such as a laptop, cell phone, and books. It also features hidden cord cutouts for charging electronics. Moreover, it has a solid white oak base with intentionally exposed hardware and costs $500. Two problems: The price is high for a matte lacquer white engineered wood top, and it’s made in Vietnam, which doesn’t do anything for American jobs.
On the other hand, Basis from Room & Board is an uber-sleek unit that is perfect as a console table but can double as a work desk for a laptop. Unlike Torino, it features a solid wood top (natural maple, cherry or walnut) and a stainless steel base. It also has a drop-front drawer that accommodates keyboards and laptops. The really good thing is that the desk is made in North Dakota (great for our economy). The bad news is that it’s priced from $1,000 to $1,200.
Would you buy the Basis if it meant five U.S. jobs?