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Made in America?

More and more U.S. businesses are trekking overseas to explore cheaper ways to make their products. But what does that mean for small manufacturers left behind on the home front?

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This story appears in the October 2003 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Vince Ruffolo, president of SIC Inc., a small Wisconsin manufacturer of metal finishings and coatings, is not too worried about his company's future. Though many of his American peers have gone belly up in the face of intense foreign competition, Ruffolo, 48, believes Racine-based SIC remains strong. "We made a series of good investments in the 1990s, and we're able to cut costs effectively and deliver the type of just-in-time service that distinguishes us from foreign competition," he says. "We still have a strong client base."

Ruffolo's optimism is not shared by many of his peers. Over the past decade, the U.S. manufacturing sector has shrunken rapidly, destroying thousands of jobs. Small manufacturers have been hit particularly hard, and the recent economic downturn has only exacerbated this trend. Like SIC, some small manufacturers have used the downturn to retrench and make themselves more competitive. But many others have simply gone bankrupt, leading some entrepreneurs and economists to question whether small manufacturers have a future in America.

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