Photo by Donald A. Promnitz. David Salter has been named the U.S. Small Business Administration’s 2020 Small Business Person of the year for the San Joaquin Valley and Central Coast region.

published on June 17, 2019 - 1:03 PM
Written by Donald A. Promnitz

Recent tariffs on Chinese-manufactured goods have been felt throughout the United States, including the Central Valley, where Chowchilla-based supply company Salter’s Distributing, Inc. imports the majority of his products.

In fact, as owner and operator Dave Salter rifled through boxes in his warehouse, he produced some of the household brands like Crayola, Bic and 3M that he carries, showing a great many that are being produced in China. He estimates that the “Made in China” logo is on around 70% of his goods, including official NFL hats.

“It’s the NFL,” Salter said. “American as pie, but it’s being made in China.”

As is to be expected, Salter’s Distributing is getting daily calls about price increases on imports. However, despite the inconvenience, Salter said he’s still in favor of the tariffs, believing they will be beneficial in the long run.

“I’m in support of what’s best for America, and I feel like we have to make sure we’re on an even playing field with the other countries,” he explained. “We’ve been too soft over the years, and so we’ve been taken advantage of.”

Actually, Salter’s Distributing is in a “sweet spot” in terms of overall size. The company is large enough to buy goods in heavy volume and pass the savings down to the customers, but small enough to deliver the more attentive customer service those larger businesses can’t. Small distributors may crash, but Salter believes that in the long run, he and his 46-person staff may stand to come out ahead. Currently, their company provides service to more than 1,800 grocery, hardware and convenience stores, doing business in the Valley and on the coast.

It also helps that Salter has been working to branch out to manufacturers outside of China for many of their own original products. For example, Salter’s Distributing offers custom baseball caps for private companies and has switched their product creation to Vietnam. Billy Lawson, national sales manager for Salter’s Distributing, said it’s been an overall positive experience resulting in excellent hats.

“We’ve been happy with the switch, with the quality and the pricing,” Lawson said.

Other products, like their leather gloves, are currently being made in India.

If anything, Salter said he’s more concerned about the current situation and business climate in California than he is about the international trade issue. A particular issue for him has been gas prices in the state — his overall bill for gas being $12,000 last month alone. This means more money paid to trucking companies. But despite previous temptations to take operations to Reno, he says he’s committed to staying local. His current site previously belonged to Break Parts, which employed 300 people in Chowchilla, but cheap labor incentivized a move of the factory to Mexico. This, he added was another reason he supports the tariffs on both China and Mexico.

“It’s just horrifying to think that these companies are picking up and leaving with thousands of jobs,” Salter said. “With Trump, now, we have thousands of manufacturing jobs coming back to the states — and that’s all because of tariffs.”

In the meantime, Salter said he’s doing everything he can to avoid passing hiked prices on to his customers.

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