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Published: Friday, 4/24/2009

Local business owner says country at stake

BY JON CHAVEZ
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER
Stiner Wright, an employee of American Posts, stacks heavy-duty steel 'U' fence posts as they come off the line at the small firm. Feniger Stiner Wright, an employee of American Posts, stacks heavy-duty steel 'U' fence posts as they come off the line at the small firm. Feniger
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David Feniger is just one man and he knows his company, which makes steel posts, is small at 10 employees and about $6 million a year in sales.

But this isn't stopping him from tackling an issue that he thinks is critical for helping the country out of the recession: buying American-made products.

This week Mr. Feniger, president of American Posts LLC, which has a 130,000-square-foot factory and warehouse at 810 Chicago St. in Toledo, is launching his own modest buy-American awareness campaign.

Born a month ago out of rejections Mr. Feniger received from retailers preferring to buy from foreign steel posts makers - even those whose products are no cheaper than American Posts' - the campaign is a true grassroots effort.

But Mr. Feniger said it is important because the quest for cheaper foreign-made items is rippling across the country and playing no small part in affecting the nation's economy.

Feniger Feniger
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"We'd like the retailers in this country to look at the broad perspective and see all the products they are buying that are not made here," said Mr. Feniger, who bought American Posts in 2005 after several years with the former Meridian National Corp.

"I've seen a lot of 'It's just the price, that's all I care about.' But there are retailers who have said to me, 'I don't care if you're the same price as what I buy from China, I'm not switching,'•" he said.

"I have even offered to match prices, but no one wants to go through the effort to switch," Mr. Feniger said. "They'd rather keep buying from China."

His "Buy a Stake in America" campaign is a play on words that alludes to the 3 million steel posts his company makes which are used extensively by farmers and government road and traffic departments.

However, the campaign is aimed at helping all small manufacturers and businesses.

He said wants to convince big-box retailers to get behind a buy-American effort through trade journals, marketing materials, and direct contact.

Already, he said, Ace Hardware Inc. has agreed to switch to his American-made steel posts, which sell for $3 to $5 each.

Mr. Feniger said representatives from Lowe's Inc. also have been intrigued by his campaign ideas.

Buy-American campaigns traditionally have been controversial, with proponents arguing they are necessities in harsh economic times and opponents arguing they impede trade agreements.

But the idea gained clout recently with the new federal stimulus package, which has "buy American" provisions for purchases of steel, iron, and construction materials that are to be used for rebuilding the nation's infrastructure.

Contact Jon Chavez at:

jchavez@theblade.com

or 419-724-6128.



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