The second of an occasional series called "The Money Map," which looks at how global economic forces are shaping the economies of America's hometowns.
Superior Products Inc. makes gas fittings — valves for oxygen tanks and the like — and as the dollar has lost value against other currencies, Superior's products have become more competitive in price. This despite the fact that the Cleveland-based company pays 40 percent more for the raw materials it uses to make its products.
CEO Don Mottinger says he's seen an increase in orders for his company's products, and Vice President Greg Gens agrees that the company is having a good year.
"When we go overseas now, a dollar-denominated price is something much more competitive — if you are competing against companies that are selling in euros, for instance," Gens says. "So there is an advantage as we set up and try to get product into Europe or Southeast Asia."
Superior Products is not alone. Miles Free, from a national association of 500 manufacturers, says small shops that sell mostly to the automotive industry have seen only very minor drops in sales, despite the auto industry's woes.
Another contributing factor to the financial buoyancy of the manufacturers is, surprisingly, the high cost of energy. As oil prices climb, shipping cheaply made products from China becomes more expensive. Add to this slowly increasing labor costs in Asia, and many buyers are rethinking the savings they are achieving by purchasing overseas.
Despite these trends, much of this may not be felt for another year. More attractive prices may entice buyers, but creating trade relationships takes time.
Mhari Saito reports for WCPN in Cleveland.