Buy American Act brings business to area company

October 18, 2011 3:24:53 PM PDT
A small suburban company has been awarded a big government contract. It is a contract that was slated to go to a South Korean company until the Buy American Act was exercised.

Illinois Congressman Dan Lipinski says he demanded that the Department of Defense adhere to the Buy American Act.

Lipinski is also working to strengthen the Buy American Act, which requires the government to buy American products when possible.

A Bedford Park company says the new contract will bring new jobs to the Chicago area.

The contract allows Hoist Liftruck to keep dozens of jobs as well as hire new workers.

The Buy American Act calls for the U.S. government to do business in America when possible. Congressman Dan Lipinksi says the act has been violated thousands of times by the Defense Department. Lipinksi wasn't about to let it happen again with Hoist Liftruck.

Hoist Liftruck began 31 years ago out of Marty Flaska's house in the western suburbs. The forklift company eventually moved to Bedford Park and at one point employed close to 300 workers until the recession hit.

"When the recession finally hit in July 2008 our sales dropped 90 percent," Flaska said.

"As a supervisor, I had five people working for me and little by little laid off everyone until I was the only one left in the department," said Jerry Marquez.

Slowly, Hoist Liftruck is building back its business. However, it ran into a road block when it lost a $670,000 Defense Department contract to a South Korean company until Illinois Congressman Dan Lipinski intervened and forced the Pentagon to abide by the Buy American Act.

"The purpose of the Buy American Act is to try to ensure taxpayers dollars are spent on American products when ever practical," said Lipinski.

In Hoist's case, owner Marty Flaska says his bid was just as competitive as the South Korean company. Winning the contract back translates into 40 jobs for this Bedford Park company.

"It keeps me employed, and it keeps other people employed knowing that the parts we use are American-made parts," said Michael Pickens, Hoist Liftruck employee.

"It also means all our suppliers provide products that go into forklifts are able to maintain their jobs and build their business," said Randy Jahn.

To keep jobs in America, especially ones that are supported by U.S. government contracts, Flaska says it is time to educate federal contracting officers about the Buy American Act.

Congressman Lipinski has introduced the Buy American Improvement Act to close loopholes in the current law. Lipinksi says the bill would prevent the government from dividing up a single project into different ones for the purpose of making them small enough so the act does not apply.

Lipinksi says there is no excuse for The U.S. government to put taxpayer money in the pockets of oversees workers.

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