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Master Lock gets a presidential plug

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Just in time for Home Channel News’ “Made in the USA” report (see page 16), President Obama locked down an American-made theme in his State of the Union address.

“A few weeks ago, the CEO of Master Lock told me that it now makes business sense for him to bring jobs back home,” Obama said in his address before the U.S. Congress last month. “Today, for the first time in 15 years, Master Lock’s unionized plant in Milwaukee is running at full capacity.”

A Master Lock spokeswoman said that CEO John Heppner, along with several other CEOs, met with the president, the vice president and cabinet members in an “Insourcing American Jobs” forum on Jan. 11 at the White House.

Since mid-2010, Master Lock has brought back approximately 100 jobs from China to its Milwaukee factory, which is unionized. Increasingly higher labor and logistics costs in Asia contributed to the decision. Milwaukee provided a more competitive overall cost structure, better control and the ability to better serve customers, according to a statement from the company.

Obama returned to the theme of insourcing a little later in his speech when he addressed the tax code. “If you’re a business that wants to outsource jobs, you shouldn’t get a tax deduction for doing it. That money should be used to cover moving expenses for companies like Master Lock that decide to bring jobs home.”

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High times for niche retailer

BY HBSDEALER Staff

A franchise chain of West Coast supply stores for “indoor gardeners” is bringing its special strain of controversy to Washington, D.C., with a fourth location in the Northeast quadrant of the nation’s capital.

WeGrow, which will open a 2,500-sq.-ft. “hydroponics superstore” this spring, is making no secret about its intention to serve medical marijuana growers. WeGrow already operates similar retail shops in Sacramento and Oakland, Calif., and Phoenix. The use of medical marijuana is legal in both California and Arizona.

“We’re not selling anything that has not been sold before,” said franchisee Alex Wong in a television interview posted on WeGrow’s website. Customers will include ordinary gardeners as well as marijuana cultivators, he added. Staff will give advice to both groups, and inventory will include pipes and other paraphernalia.

Whether Wong — and the District of Columbia — runs into trouble with the federal government remains to be seen.

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Toro acquires Astec Underground product line

BY HBSDealer Staff

Bloomington, Minn.-based Toro Co. has acquired certain utility and underground product assets of Astec Underground, a wholly owned subsidiary of Astec Industries. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed. 

Through the acquisition, Toro has acquired Astec Underground’s equipment line of vibratory plows, trenchers and horizontal directional drills for the underground utilities market. These products, which are used in the installation, repair and replacement of utilities with minimal impact on surrounding landscapes or structures, are designed for power distribution, telecommunications, utility companies, and landscape and irrigation contractors.

“This acquisition helps further grow Toro’s product presence in the landscape and ground engaging markets, along with providing access to a new category close to our core businesses,” said Rick Rodier, general manager of Toro’s Sitework Systems Business. “The underground utilities space represents a market in which we don’t compete today, but one we believe provides great opportunity to drive global share growth in these new categories.”

Chattanooga, Tenn-based Astec Industries is a manufacturer of specialized equipment for asphalt road building, aggregate processing, pipeline and utility trenching and wood processing. The products Toro is acquiring, which does not include Astec’s Trencor product line, are manufactured at the Astec Underground facility in Loudon, Tennessee.

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