After Years in China, This American Manufacturer Made a Mighty Move

Jeffrey Bonior

Jeffrey Bonior Researcher/Writer, AAM

When Texas entrepreneur Jack Clark created a durable, lightweight utility cart in 1994, he built his first 1,000 carts in Houston.

By 1997, Clark moved production of his all-purpose movable carts to China. After all, isn’t this what most businesses were doing to increase profit margins?

After 11 years of dealing with the frustrations of manufacturing halfway around the world, Clark obtained a new set of plastic molds for the carts and moved production back to the United States.

Welcome home Jack.

Clark now builds his Mighty Max Carts in Dallas, where he was born and raised. A lifelong Texan, Clark rediscovered the Longhorn State mantra that you “Don’t Mess with Texas.”

“I’ve been doing this for 20-something years, and we sold about 50,000 to 60,000 of the Chinese carts, but we couldn’t replace the parts fast enough,” Clark recalled. “The carts would just finally collapse. This new American-made cart is awesome.

“In China, the first two or three thousand carts they made were fine, and then they just kept getting cheaper and cheaper in quality. I would be standing on the cart just showing someone how it works, and the handle would crack off in my hand.”

The carts are made through an injection molding process using polypropylene with a fiberglass and calcium mix which give them rigidity and strength. Unlike metal carts that tend to bend and break, this plastic resin mix gives the carts the unique quality of springing back to their original shape after carrying a heavy load. The plastic tubs that can be attached to the flat bed are made from polyethylene.

The carts weigh just 22 pounds, but can carry a load of more than 300 pounds depending on their use. They are expandable but can be folded down to a size that will fit in any automobile trunk.

“When I sold my previous company in 1993, I was a soccer dad and one of my engineers was as well,” Clark said. “We thought, ‘Boy, it sure would be nice if we could have a little cart that would collapse and put it in our SUVs or cars and then we could take it out and put our coolers, lawn chairs and soccer balls on there and roll it through the mud out to the soccer field.’

“That was the original concept of the little cart. It’s lightweight and expandable because we didn’t want to use a big old heavy wagon. And here we are, $2.5 million later and expanding.”

Perfect for soccer moms and dads, but the Mighty Max Cart is an ideal tool to be used for a variety of purposes.

“It’s basically the same expandable cart but it converts to several things,” Clark said. “For a garden cart, you can use it as a wheelbarrow or a dump cart, flat-bed cart, a rolling garden seat or a double stack for your mulch on the bottom and your plants on the top.

“You can take it out through the mud, you can take it out to the soccer camp, or it can be used for hauling your fishing gear to the water. It is an excellent cart to transport your large coolers and lawn chairs to the beach and continues to roll well through coarse or hard sand. You can take it in the water, and it will never rust, and the wheels will not go flat.”

Other popular uses of the Mighty Max Cart include transporting groceries, a dolly for moving furniture, a caddy to carry the gear of hunters and a two-tier carry-all for mechanical tools.

Clark, who is president and CEO of Mighty Max Carts, LLC, had to recruit a new set of investors when he stopped production in China in 2009. He also had to line up a new set of suppliers to provide parts for the Mighty Max Cart.

Most of the cart is constructed from plastic resin at QFC Plastics in Arlington, Texas, a suburb of Dallas. He has screen clips specially made at Valco Tool and Die in Cleveland, while other parts are manufactured in Tennessee. The axles are made from rebar supplied by a small steel company in Ohio. And many of their plastic parts are sourced from Micro Plastics Inc. in Arkansas.

The wheels are still sourced from overseas.

“If I could find a supplier anywhere in the United States that could make this wheel for me, even if it is a little more expensive, that would be wonderful,” Clark said. “The majority of the wheels made in the United States have bearings in them and when you have bearings and steel in a wheel, it’s going to rust, especially along the coastline. You get sand in there and the saltwater just eats them up and will stop the wheels from turning.”

“Other than the wheels, I use all U.S. suppliers,” Clark said. “And, of course, QFC Plastics in Arlington handles our manufacturing, but we are going to be moving the assembly to the Lighthouse for the Blind by September. They are in Ft. Worth which is just 18 minutes away and they will do our packaging and daily order processing.”

From Dallas, to Arlington, to Fort Worth is surely a close-knit metropolitan area. It’s a far cry from traveling to China several times a year.

“I spent so much time there. That 23-hour flight drove me crazy, and whenever I had to make any kind of major change, I had to fly all the way to China,” Clark said. “It was unreal. But we realized even if we send the right resins over to China - because plastic resin is plastic resin - we realized they would just use that for the government and still use the cheap plastic for our parts. That’s when I said, ‘enough is enough.’

“If it’s Made in America it’s going to cost more, and people know that. But they are going to get a higher quality of product and our customer service is unbelievable here. We take care of people’s parts and good care of our customers. I just don’t want to send one of my carts to China because I’ll end up having a duplicate.

“We made the carts in China and it just didn’t work out. Now I think the Mighty Max Cart Made in Texas is going to really do it for us once we get that exposure.

“My dad, I Iost him about 13 years ago and he’s probably smiling, looking down saying ‘It’s about time you took it back to America’ because he hated it when I went to China with my carts,” Clark said.

The Mighty Max all-purpose and specialty carts are available online at the company website www.mightymaxcart.com and also can be purchased online through Home Depot, Lowes, Ace Hardware and major sporting goods online retailers. The carts, which range in price from $170 to $190, are expected to be available in retail outlets later this year.

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Reposted from AAM

Posted In: Allied Approaches, From Alliance for American Manufacturing

Union Matters

An Invitation to Sunny Miami. What Could Be Bad?

Sam Pizzigati

Sam Pizzigati Editor, Too Much online magazine

If a billionaire “invites” you somewhere, you’d better go. Or be prepared to suffer the consequences. This past May, hedge fund kingpin Carl Icahn announced in a letter to his New York-based staff of about 50 that he would be moving his business operations to Florida. But the 83-year-old Icahn assured his staffers they had no reason to worry: “My employees have always been very important to the company, so I’d like to invite you all to join me in Miami.” Those who go south, his letter added, would get a $50,000 relocation benefit “once you have established your permanent residence in Florida.” Those who stay put, the letter continued, can file for state unemployment benefits, a $450 weekly maximum that “you can receive for a total of 26 weeks.” What about severance from Icahn Enterprises? The New York Post reported last week that the two dozen employees who have chosen not to uproot their families and follow Icahn to Florida “will be let go without any severance” when the billionaire shutters his New York offices this coming March. Bloomberg currently puts Carl Icahn’s net worth at $20.5 billion.

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