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Business and Economy

Maine Manufacturer Says Chinese Imports Hurting Business

MECHANIC FALLS, Maine — A Maine manufacturer is asking officials at two federal agencies to impose tariffs on Chinese imports of a textile called silica fabric.

Auburn Manufacturing Inc. says China is dumping the material on the American market at extremely low prices, causing the company, based in Mechanic Falls, to lose millions of dollars.

Silica fabric is made from fiberglass. But it’s much more refined and can withstand temperatures as high as 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

Auburn Manufacturing sells silica fabric on the commercial market and to the U.S. Navy, which uses it in protective welding gear for ship repair and construction.

“There’s a lot of work that goes into making these products,” says Auburn Manufacturing CEO Kathie Leonard. “It isn’t just weaving.”

And its not cheap, which is a big reason why Leonard was so concerned when she started seeing shipments of silica fabric from China showing up on the American market.

“They’re selling them way below what it costs to make these products,” she says. “And we’ve lost, you know, over the last three years, we looked at our domestic sales for the products. And we’ve lost almost 30 percent of our business.”

That’s millions of dollars in lost revenue, a big blow, says Leonard, for a company with just 50 employees. So last year, Auburn Manufacturing hired a law firm that specializes in trade litigation.

“To see if we had a case, to take before the Department of Commerce, to file an anti-dumping petition,” Leonard says.

Both the U.S. Department of Commerce and the U.S. International Trade Commission are now investigating and can penalize China with tariffs, if they find evidence of wrongdoing.