Largest US nail manufacturer ‘on the brink of extinction’ because of the steel tariffs

The Mid-Continent Nail plant in Poplar Bluff, Missouri, laid off 60 of its 500 workers last week because of increased steel costs.

By Chris Isidore, CNN Money

Steel tariffs could force the nation’s largest nail manufacturer to close or move to Mexico.

The Mid-Continent Nail plant in Poplar Bluff, Missouri, laid off 60 of its 500 workers last week because of increased steel costs. The company blames the 25% tariff on imported steel. Orders for nails plunged 50% after the company raised its prices to deal with higher steel costs.

The company is in danger of shutting production by Labor Day unless the Commerce Department grants it an exclusion from paying the tariffs, company spokesman James Glassman told CNN’s Poppy Harlow.

Mid-Continent Nail is “on the brink of extinction,” he said.

Glassman said the company might relocate to Mexico, where it could buy the steel without the tariffs — and then export the finished nails back to the United States without tariffs, which only apply to raw materials.

“It’s obviously an option,” said Glassman about moving to Mexico. “It absolutely is something this company does not want to do. It wants to save the jobs in Poplar Bluff, Missouri.”

Glassman called President Donald Trump’s trade policy misguided. He noted that the company had doubled its work force since 2013, and thrived despite increased competition from China.

Related: Harley-Davidson will move some production out of US after retaliatory tariffs

About 21,000 US companies have filed for tariff exclusions. In a June 20 Senate hearing, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said Mid-Continent had filed a request for an exclusion only two days earlier.

“I’m not belittling their situation at all. But given the importance of it to them, it’s very unfortunate that they waited all these weeks to file the request,” he said. “Under the authority we were granted, there is a process we have to follow.”

The US Chamber of Commerce has estimated that 2.6 million US jobs are at risk because of the Trump administration’s hard-line policies on trade, although that estimate includes the impact of ending NAFTA. A separate analysis by research firm Moody’s Analytics estimates that 2.4 million jobs could be lost by the end of 2019 just from the impact of tariffs.

Related: How a trade war could turn into a recession

The area of Missouri where the plant is located voted 80% for President Trump. Glassman said he can’t say whether people in town are still supporting the president.

“They are scared, they are worried about their families. It’s not like there are tons of other manufacturing jobs,” he said. “If I were a Mid-Continent worker, I would be extremely unhappy with what this administration is doing.”