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Hampton Roads manufacturer among businesses hit hard by Trump tariffs

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HAMPTON, Va. (WAVY) — The impact from new tariffs is being felt here in Hampton Roads.

On March 8, the Trump Administration announced new tariffs on foreign steel and aluminum.  Now a Hampton businessman says tariffs are taking a hit on his bottom line.

The Riggins Company builds things using steel and aluminum. 

Johnny Munford is the president of Riggins, and he says Donald Trump’s new 25 percent tariff on foreign steel and aluminum is hitting his bottom line big time, and there’s a huge trickle down. 

President Munford has a message for President Donald Trump. 

That message is that President Trump’s new tariff just cost Munford a big contract, and Munford fears the worst is yet to come.

In the middle of the Riggins welding shop, Munford points to a huge steel plate.

“We take this flat plate.  We cut it. We bend it. We roll it. We form it. We then fabricate it, assemble it, and weld it,” says Munford.

Munford says President Trump’s new tariffs on foreign steel hit him hard, “This is coming in from China, there’s new tariffs on it, and now it costs more money,” Munford told us.

The tariff jacked up the cost of Munford’s industrial stainless steel tanks by 25 percent, and either Munford pays it or his customers pay it. 

“I don’t consider this a tariff on our customers only, I consider it a tariff on our employees, and really a tariff on our country.”

It’s not only Munford’s company. 

According to Brookings researchers Max Bouchet and Joseph Parilla, who told MarketWatch an estimated 1,900 Virginia workers directly employed in steel and aluminum are impacted by the new tariffs, along with 140,000 workers employed in industries that use steel and aluminum

Munford says the real trickle down for President Trump’s 25 percent tariff happened last Monday when a European customer told Munford he lost the job.

“And they gave us two reasons:  one, price; and two, pricing volatility.”

Consider this.

That lost job was a year’s worth of work for three of Munford’s employees. 

“I went head-to-head with a European customer.  We were his chosen American fabricator, and my competitor was a Chinese firm … our customer said it was bad timing for us. If it weren’t for these tariffs we might have had a better shot.”  Munford added, “We can’t even hold our prices because the prices of commodities are going up and down, and they are creating a lot of instability in the market right now.”

Munford also said, “I think in his heart, he is trying to help American manufacturers.” 

When reminded that the tariffs have hurt many American manufacturers, including himself, Munford responded, “Exactly. I don’t know if he understands that.”

10 On Your Side will keep in touch with Johnny Munford to see what lies ahead with the new tariff.   

Munford has an American company that employs Americans, and is impacted by what he thinks is a policy that is not good for American consumers, business owners, and workers.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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