Tariffs Being Felt by Connecticut Manufacturers

Norm Needleman is the president of the leading manufacturer of effervescent products in the United States, Tower Laboratories.

The company makes products for major brands like Alka Seltzer and generics that fizz.

“If it fizzes, we make it,” Needleman said Tuesday.

Needleman is currently running for State Senate as a Democrat against Republican Melissa Ziobron. The district includes Clinton where his company is located.

Since the Trump administration slapped tariffs on a host of products and materials, Needleman says he’s nearing the point where he will have to raise prices, which means customers will see higher prices when they go to the store.

“You can’t have a worse way to execute tariff, trade policy than what he’s doing because the end result is that the consumer pays more.”

Specifically, the tariff on aluminum that’s imported into the United States has led to retaliation by other countries, leading to prices hikes of 25 percent from Needleman’s supplier. Combine that increase with a higher cost for stock for packaging from Canada as a result of another tariff, Needleman says he’s already identified $800,000 in higher costs for his business.

Overall, the tariffs administered by the president have an impact of $174 million on goods and services, according to the US Chamber of Commerce, one of the largest business advocacy groups in the United States.

The biggest pain is felt when it comes to exports to Canada and China with possible losses of $68 million and $67 million, respectively, as a result of the tariffs being enforced. Both countries have already retaliated with levies on goods coming from the United States.

“A lot of things are humming and the last thing you want is something that puts a bump in the road,” said Joe Brennan, the President of the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, the state’s largest business group.

Brennan says he’s heard from large and small manufacturers and said more than half of the CBIA’s membership is concerned with the impact the tariffs may have on their business. To many, Brennan says, the tariffs came out of nowhere.

“Stability and predictability are really really important concepts and what this has done is run turmoil, if not chaos into some markets.”

In the meantime, there is nothing Connecticut can do to change the course of the Trump administration, which has said publicly that while some employers and workers may be upset now, there is long-term growth that will follow as a result of the tariffs.

Brennan says no one knows that for sure, but said in state like Connecticut with a fragile state of economic affairs, the tariffs did not do anything to ease tensions of the state or the country falling back into a malaise.

“As manufacturing is finally gaining some traction, companies are moving back to the US, now we’re imposing tariffs that are adding higher costs that make it more difficult for them to be competitive so the timing of this in some ways couldn’t be worse, particularly in a state like Connecticut that relies so heavily on advanced manufacturing.”

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