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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?

By Joshua Kurlantzick

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Vince Ruffolo, president of SIC Inc., a small Wisconsinmanufacturer of metal finishings and coatings, is not too worriedabout his company's future. Though many of his American peershave gone belly up in the face of intense foreign competition,Ruffolo, 48, believes Racine-based SIC remains strong. "Wemade a series of good investments in the 1990s, and we're ableto cut costs effectively and deliver the type of just-in-timeservice that distinguishes us from foreign competition," hesays. "We still have a strong client base."

Ruffolo's optimism is not shared by many of his peers. Overthe past decade, the U.S. manufacturing sector has shrunkenrapidly, destroying thousands of jobs. Small manufacturers havebeen hit particularly hard, and the recent economic downturn hasonly exacerbated this trend. Like SIC, some small manufacturershave used the downturn to retrench and make themselves morecompetitive. But many others have simply gone bankrupt, leadingsome entrepreneurs and economists to question whether smallmanufacturers have a future in America.

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