#690 – This guy will make anything, as long as he can make it in AmericaJun 12, 2018
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This guy will make anything, as long as he can make it in America
By Kai Ryssdal and Daisy Palacios | May 31, 2018 | marketplace.org
Marketplace host Kai Ryssdal took a trip to Columbus, Georgia to do an informal survey of American manufacturing by looking at how we make things in this country today.
We talked with John Anker, a salesman turned business owner who’s determined to make stuff in America.
His company, Ankerpak, manufactures, packages and distributes markers, erasers, compressors, textiles, boxes and everything in between. The company website says “We’ll manufacture anything. We’ll package anything. We’ll distribute anything.”
Anker started Ankerpak in Columbus, Georgia in 2004. Originally, Ankerpak did full-service packaging — wrapping up products that other companies had made, getting them into boxes or onto shipping pallets and sending them on their way.
When he heard that one of his customers was closing a plant and offshoring it to China, he saw his chance. “I ran to them and I said ‘Wait, why are you going to China? Can I do that?’ And they said ‘John we’re moving all our manufacturing. All you’re doing is packaging for us.’ And ended up they came back and gave me an opportunity to keep some of the manufacturing here as opposed to moving it as originally planned to China.”
That’s when Ankerpak transformed from a just packaging company to a full service manufacturing company. The first product they manufactured were bobby pins, a type of hairpin.
“It was a partnership in its truest sense,” Anker said. “They already owned the equipment. They were moving it, and closing it down, moving to China. So, their choice was number one: send it to China like they planned on just move the equipment to China, China has the labor they had the supply side and Goody products had the demand side. And so, we picked up their equipment gave them a second option, that was: outsource it to an American company at the same price as an overseas provider. I mean the same price.”
Anker competes on flexibility more than price. He’s profitable, maybe not as profitable as others might be, but he hustles. Ankerpak has three facilities in Columbus.
Anker showed Ryssdal around the one where the manufacturing happens. This is where Ankerpak makes composite fabrics, commercial refrigeration compressors and more.
After Ankerpak started making bobby pins, Anker found out about another company that was making pencils, pens, erasers and other office products. That company was closing down its Tennessee-based factory and moving its operations to Mexico.
“We ran to them and said, ‘What can we do for you?'” Anker said. “I tell people I’m like the old Life commercial. ‘Give it to Mikey, he will eat anything. And Mikey likes it.'”
Anker: They were closing this whole factory down and moving to Mexico and when I ran in there said ‘What can I do?’ They said, ‘John, it’s all been slated. Here’s the plant lay out in Mexico. Here’s where these machines are going.’ I left, I came back home and they called me two weeks later and said, ‘you know we’ve been thinking about it, we might give you an opportunity to quote on some of the stuff that might be suited to keep here in America.’