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Business Observer Friday, Nov. 15, 2019 3 weeks ago

Economic Forecast 2020: Manufacturing 

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Wendy Shim, president and majority owner; Harry Bakker, part owner, Trailmate  
by: Grier Ferguson Sarasota-Manatee Editor

Manufacturing

Wendy Shim and Harry Bakker

President and majority owner; part owner (respectively)

Trailmate, Manatee County  

Company:

Trailmate makes tricycles for adults, children, people with special needs and industrial uses. Its clients include campgrounds, hotels, resorts, industrial factories and warehouses. It has an office and manufacturing plant in Manatee County with about 10 employees, where the company does all the assembly and subassembly of its tricycles.

Opportunities:

Courtesy. One of Trailmate's industrial tricycles.

For Trailmate, 2019 has been on par with last year, but Wendy Shim, president and majority owner, thinks revenue will be higher overall this year. (She declines to disclose 2018 revenue figures.) One growth area is the company’s industrial line. Clients are buying Trailmate’s tricycles for factories and warehouses in an effort to get rid of the golf carts they use and be more sustainable. Clients for the company’s industrial tricycles include Coca-Cola, 3M, Walmart and Ford Motor Co. “There are indications our industrial market will substantially increase through the distributors that we have online,” says Harry Bakker, part owner. “We’ve been told to be ready to ship more products.”

Threats:

Shim and Bakker say tariffs and trade wars have hit Trailmate hard. “Unfortunately, we had to purchase most of our parts from overseas, and consequently the tariffs Mr. Trump says nobody has to pay, we have to pay and it’s rather substantial,” Bakker says. “The tariff situation has not done us any favors at all.” Yet in response, Trailmate has not raised prices for customers. “We’ve just taken the hit and gone with lower margins and hoped the economy will adjust and we’ll be able to ride it out,” Shim says. The company also expects to face some staffing challenges. Finding people with good trade skills can be hard, but Shim says one potential opportunity is hiring retired baby boomers as part-time employees. “The threat ahead I see is the labor market, because if more manufacturing comes back to the U.S., we’re going to need more people with a higher set of trade skills.”

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