Sunday, August 15, 2004

Exporting Jobs, Importing Garlic. At a pot-luck luncheon at church today, after the worship service, I sat with a businessman, Hernan, who is married to our church secretary. He is a Chilean, now a US citizen, and very well educated. His wife is an Armenian, born and raised in the Bronx, whose parents' families fled from the Turkish persecution. (I think that only in Miami would you have lunch with such people at a Presbyterian Church. But I could be wrong.)

Hernan told me that his company is getting ready to import processed garlic from Argentina to the United States. What is interesting about the story is that the processing factory just moved, lock, stock and barrel, from Miami to a place near Buenos Aires where the garlic is grown. It literally moved. His company bought the factory from the local owner, disassembled it, transported it to the Port of Miami, and last week put it on the boat to South America. It is on its way there now. When the factory arrives, his company will put it back together again, next to the fields where the garlic is grown. The product of the factory will be shipped back to the US.

Hernan said that a California firm designed and manufactured the machinery in the factory. The local owner of the factory could not make a go of it, apparently, and put the factory up for sale. Hernan's company figured out that it could be successful only if it were located outside the US. The result of all of this, if the venture works, are new jobs in Argentina and cheaper garlic in the US. Cheaper garlic in the US may produce some jobs of its own in the food distribution and preparation business. It might win some more business for the California company that designed and made the machinery. I don't think we can say that Hernan's company actually exported jobs to Argentina, because the business in Miami was failing. It sounds like a win-win to me.

I am sure a "win-win" is not always so. But the story makes you want to stop and think about the negative rhetoric we sometimes hear about American businesses "exporting jobs abroad".

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