Friday, August 19, 2011

Georgia Chopsticks?!!

At the end of a trying week it is always nice to come across a story that can raise one’s spirits a bit. The Economist provided a brief, entertaining note titled Sticking It to China, a clever but perhaps misleading phrase. It is no great news to point out that the Chinese go through billions of chopsticks each year. It is not terribly clever to figure out that chopsticks are made of wood. One might also be able to conclude that after centuries of overpopulating and ravaging the environment, the Chinese might have better things to do with their remaining trees than turn them into chopsticks. Someone in Georgia (USA) thought this all through—perhaps while sitting under a tree—and said: “We have lots of trees in Georgia!”

From that eureka moment came the idea for a new company: Georgia Chopsticks.

“Jae Lee, a former scrap-metal exporter, saw an opportunity and began turning out chopsticks for the Chinese market late last year. He and his co-owner, David Hughes, make their chopsticks from poplar and sweet-gum trees, which have the requisite flexibility and toughness, and are abundant throughout Georgia.”

“In May Georgia Chopsticks moved to larger premises in Americus, a location that offered room to grow, inexpensive facilities and a willing workforce. Sumter County, of which Americus is the seat, has an unemployment rate of more than 12%. Georgia Chopsticks now employs 81 people turning out 2m chopsticks a day. By year’s end Mr Lee and Mr Hughes hope to increase their workforce to 150, and dream of building a ‘manufacturing incubator’ to help foreign firms take advantage of Georgia’s workforce and raw materials.”

The finishing of the wood is still done in China, but it looks like Georgia Chopsticks has found a healthy market for itself. The plan is to begin exporting to Korea and Japan later this year.

I don’t know about you, but I get some perverse satisfaction out of contemplating millions of Chinese using and throwing away little wooden things that come out of a crate marked “Made in the USA.”

1 comment:

  1. To what I knew chopsticks that are made from Georgia do not need to be artificially lightened with bleach and other chemicals for the wood they are using have a better quality than the Chinese used. The state have a very rich resources that’s why they can produced and meet the demands for exporting chopsticks.


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