How Biden can help this suburban company tackle inflation, supply chain woes

The Biden administration must step in on a trade dispute involving an Oak Brook-based company that supplies the home building industry. Hundreds of jobs could be at stake.

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New homes under construction in California. Oak Brook-based company is the market leader of garage and security gate openers that are essential to the home construction industry.

New homes under construction in California. Oak Brook-based company is the market leader of garage and security gate openers that are essential to the home construction industry.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

As Americans struggle through record inflation and supply chain shortages, the last thing consumers need is another cost increase. But, unless action is taken by the Biden administration ahead of an April 10 deadline, Americans will face yet another new, unnecessary and preventable hit on their wallets. Instead, we’re hoping they intervene by taking action to strengthen our economy.

As CEO of The Chamberlain Group, I’m proud of the work we do and the essential products we make. We’ve been headquartered in Oak Brook since 1954 and have grown to become America’s market leader of high-quality garage door and security gate openers. We provide our innovative and reliable products to millions of residences as well as public buildings — including hospitals, fire stations, police stations, military installations and governmental institutions.

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We currently manufacture about 70% of garage door openers sold across the country and employ 1,600 people, including 700 in Illinois. We supply customers with our openers through major retailers, and through garage-door installers and small businesses that contract with home builders.

Our products are particularly critical to the home-building industry, which has suffered from severe supply chain issues as a result of the pandemic. Those supply chain issues could worsen if we don’t secure action from the Biden administration in the next two weeks.

As some background, in February, our overseas competition successfully petitioned the International Trade Commission (ITC) to issue two orders against us, asserting that we infringed on patents for dated (30-year-old) garage door opener technology. Under these two ITC orders, we will be required to pull our products off the shelves by April 10.This would not only threaten supply chains and result in price increases for American consumers, but it would also put our 700 jobs in jeopardy if we are forced to pull our products for a prolonged period of time.

Despite the fact that we have been using this technology for decades and strongly refute these claims, we realize that our customers can ill-afford a lapse in supply, particularly this spring as home-building season is getting underway. I directed our engineers to put everything aside to redesign our products to comply with the ITC orders. We presented those redesigned products to U.S. Customs and Border Patrol for approval within just five days of the ITC’s ruling. Unfortunately, that process can take months — months that would result in empty shelves and higher costs for a limited supply of garage door openers.

That’s why we are asking the Biden administration to prevent a supply chain shortage and the inevitable cost increases consumers would almost certainly face.

We’re not asking for much: We simply need the administration to issue a letter of disapproval to the ITC indicating that the administration would support and sign modified ITC orders to delay the implementation date of the order for 10 months.

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In formal statements to the ITC, our competitors admitted that they would need up to 12 months to match only a portion of the current market demand. American consumers are the ones who will suffer if our products are taken off the market with no suitable replacements ready.

In the fact sheet just released on the White House’s proposed 2023 budget, President Joe Biden acknowledges that skyrocketing prices and financial strains are making it harder for Americans to afford homes. In his State of the Union address, the president said tackling inflation and getting prices under control was his top priority.

We agree with both statements. Taking our product off the market would not only put jobs in jeopardy, but add another supply chain issue and inflationary price increase when Americans are already struggling.

We’re asking the White House to act in the public interest, and help an American company ensure that our customers and the small businesses that depend on us aren’t left in the lurch.

Jeff Meredith is CEO of The Chamberlain Group.

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