Thursday, September 04, 2008

Vise-Grip Tool Factory Leaves Small Town for China

Loyal users of Vise-Grip locking pliers were saddened to read that the Nebraska-bred tool line will soon be made in China. Most of the Internet chat I have seen expresses worry about a possible decline in the quality of the tools.

However, looking beyond the common theme of manufacturing moving to cheaper countries, I see another example of a small town losing a part of its history and identity.

DeWitt, Nebraska boasts on its town home page that it is “Home of Vise-Grip Tools.” In a town with only 650 residents, Irwin Industrial Tool, maker of Vice-Grip tools, was the key employer. But more than that, the town and the tool company’s history were intertwined from the early 1930’s when the Vise-Grip locking wrench was invented by a Danish immigrant to DeWitt named William Petersen.

DeWitt Town Sign

The town website describes the lifeblood of the community as agriculture and the tool manufacturer, saying “DeWitt, while a town of only 650 people, is a community that has a lot going for it. It has made its mark worldwide through its good people, the products of the factory, and the purebred breeding stock of its specialized agricultural ventures.” I guess now they’re down to just agriculture.

Vise-Grip Locking Pliers

The other oft-repeated story line is sale of the family-owned business in 1984, followed by a string of acquisitions and corporate ownerships, culminating in its current status as a subsidiary of Newell-Rubbermaid. Not surprising, really, that the folks at the corporate office can make the decision to take production to China, closing down the DeWitt factory and severing the long association between another little town and its home-grown manufacturing employer.

Stephanie, Webmaster
StillMadeinUSA.com

13 comments:

Henry said...

I think that the President of Newell Rubbermaid needs to get a nice letter from all of us stating that we will do our best to avoid their products.

bruce said...

So if this is a anti outsourcing web site that I am all for. Why is there an ad 1 inch above this posting that offers companies to help you outsource?

Stephanie said...

In reply:

Sorry about the "how to outsource" ad, but I do not control which ads appear in the Google Ad box. Think of it as these companies are supporting my blog?!

Henry said...

Yeah, Stephanie --- take their money! It's a good cause.

Rob said...

I fired off a letter to Irwin and told them they no longer have a loyal customer...as long as their product is not made in America. I avoided the cheap, Chinese-made knockoffs all these years for their product because I was supporting American workers making a superior product. And Irwin sold out. I'm only one customer, but I'm one customer less. Sucks to be them.

newcavewoman said...

This breaks my heart! Same old sad story of an American tool icon now being made overseas. I have always liked the Irwin pliers and was so glad to see the American flag logo on their packages! Am truly sorry to see this happening. Nancy W.

Anonymous said...

FWIW, the new Chinese-made Vise-Grip tools are definitely of a lower quality. I'm never buying one again. I've seen too many of the Chinese ones break.

Anonymous said...

What would it take for the former employees at the plant to re-open a new company under a new name??
They have the manufacturing know how & can get a loan for the equipment. There is a growing interest in domestically made goods.

Anonymous said...

As far as I'm concerned the grandkids and greatgrandkids did not step up to the plate to keep it in DeWitt. They run around like rock stars and nobody calls them out. PATHETIC!

Anonymous said...

I'll tell you something else, Joyce Holtmeier and that beer drinking drunk of a husband sure didn't try to work at the factory and neither did that Harley B who is too concerned about giving millions to the UNL football team and his sky box. If he's such a great business man why didn't he take over Peterson's? Yeah too much work. These are some of the people that let you down DeWitt. No guts to say it though....

Jack said...

I've used Vice-Grip products for years. I owned a garage back In the 70's and have witness the decline of tools and hardware to the point that there is mostly junk on the market.

It's very sad.

Ryan Donovan said...

No offense to China, but I think that the new Vise-Grip tools which will be made in China will have lower quality compared to the ones made here. It has produced quality tools over the past years and it will be a huge lost for us.


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Anonymous said...

Sad to hear about Irwin/Vice Grip outsourcing and NE plant closing. To me it's not as much about inferior Chinese product as it's about corporate greed. When the owners of any company are more interested in becoming rich than they are passionate about the product they make, they will do everything they can to reduce costs, mostly for short-term gain. Inevitably, they are positioning the company for sale to another, possibly greedier investor.

I applaud your web site. I personally buy American as often as possible. I think organizing former skilled workers (and engineers, etc) to create a new organization to build the product the know how to build is a great idea, but will likely require some kind of investor. The challenge will be to find investors as passionate about Made in the USA as we are.

My Made in the USA soapbox speeching is from the heart and from experience. My employer manufactures in China. I have some friends in China. I have personally witnessed the corporate greed I speak of and it makes me sick to think we may elect someone who is an expert at it.

BTW, Case has started making kitchen and steak knives again.