Keep it local

Saturday, February 28, 2009

When ALC wanted to change how it manufactures lift chairs, it toyed with the idea of going overseas. Instead, ALC opened its own factory in Jefferson, Wis., in January,

“We felt it was the most sensible thing to do,” said Lucien Campolo, ALC’s CEO and director of sales. “But also, when so many things in America seem to be going in the wrong direction, we wanted to double down our investment and increase our operation in the U.S.”

About five employees work at the factory, some of them from a furniture manufacturer that closed in 2004. ALC expects to boost its employee count to 20 in the next two years, as it ramps up production of its Action Lift Chairs.

ALC decided against overseas manufacturing because it would have meant sacrificing quality over price, Campolo said.

“The quality issue was prominent,” he said. “Our lift chairs aren’t me-too products. They’re well-made, with attention to detail.”

Just because ALC’s lift chairs are “Made in the U.S.A.,” prices haven’t skyrocketed, Campolo said.

“China has experienced increased labor costs, not to mention rapid inflation, while the United States has experienced decreased labor costs,” he said. “That has helped to balance the scale.”

Until recently, ALC had contractors build its Action Lift Chairs, and it finished them in-house. But that got old, Campolo said.

“With contractors, there isn’t a lot of room for innovation or quality control,” he said. “Once something is sewn, it’s sewn. Once the frame is assembled and everything is built around it, you can’t redo it.”

Now that ALC has full control over the manufacturing process, it has been able to do things like computerize designs and color-code thread based on fabric.