Ray Schlosser, founder and president of Aero-Tech Light Bulb Co., of Schaumburg, Ill., did not build his “Made in the U.S.A.” campaign because it was the fastest route to profitability.
His 25 years of experience has shown that price trumps patriotism when it comes to purchases. “There is a competitive edge in being a ‘Made in the U.S.A.’ company up until it comes to price,” said Schlosser, whose company claims to be the only manufacturer of 20,000-hour rated, long-life incandescent bulbs left in America today. “Price seems to rule. I have had people tell me my quality is superior to the others; however, they fall victim to this, ‘I have the cheap Chinese taste in my mouth and I can’t get it out’ routine. If my bulb could sell for the same price as an import bulb, I’d clean house.”
With low margins and the rising cost of raw materials, Schlosser’s “Made in the U.S.A.” efforts may not produce a financial bonanza, but it is something the Vietnam veteran truly believes in. “I’ve always been patriotic,” he said. “The one favor I ask of my children is that when I die, that they bury me with the American flag.”
Founded in 1987, Aero-Tech Light Bulb started small. As sales grew, Schlosser used the money to buy equipment to make bulbs, which he sold to lighting maintenance companies, lighting distributors and electric distributors. Today, his products can be found in Menards, which became a partner a couple of years ago, and also small independent hardware stores.
“I’m a good secondary line,” Schlosser said. “My long-life bulbs are great for hard-to-reach areas (high ceilings, outside post lights), the areas no one wants to change.”
What Aero-Tech Light Bulb may yield in profits it compensates for in good vibrations from the public. By Schlosser’s estimation, at least once a week he receives a call from a homeowner thanking him for making bulbs in the United States. “I got a call last Thursday from a woman who said, ‘God bless you, I’m praying for you,’ ” he said. “I get calls from men who say, ‘Keep up the good work.’ ”
Five years from now, Schlosser said LEDs will be the primary light bulb in the market, followed by CFLs. Schlosser said he can compete in LEDs, which like his incandescent bulbs, will be sourced in the United States.
“I believe it can be done and I believe I will do it,” he said. “Either I am stupid or I am on the verge of something good here. I may be sinking slowly, but I am still waving the flag.”