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Powin makes strides in stateside manufacturing

New manufacturing building is poised to ramp up export to China, create jobs in Tualatin

Insourcing is the new outsourcing.

On Monday, Powin Corporation celebrated the opening of the first new manufacturing and distribution building erected in Tualatin since 2008. Powin Founder and CEO Joseph Lu said he believes that the future of manufacturing and sales doesn't lie in China, where thousands of products are manufactured at cheaper prices for Americans, but in the United States selling higher-quality products to Chinese consumers.

'Last year we felt pressure in China's inflation. Label cost rose 200 percent. Every cost is going up,' said Lu, a Chinese-American who founded Powin in 1989.

The company, which manufactures in the U.S., China, Taiwan and Mexico, has based its manufacturing in China for the past 20 years. However, a few years ago, Lu saw an opportunity for a monumental shift.

'Our target for the next 20 years is to slowly transfer our entire product line from China to the U.S.,' Lu said. Powin currently manufactures about 20 percent of its products in the states.

The company creates parts for more than 2,000 products, from trampolines to folding chairs. Powin also creates and distributes renewable and energy-efficient products, from wind and solar energy to LED lighting and more. The new 71,000 square-foot building is located at Southwest 115th Avenue.

Tualatin Chamber of Commerce CEO Linda Moholt was on hand at Monday's ribbon cutting.

'It's very exciting to see a business making such an investment in our community with future plans to produce renewable clean-energy products. It will be good for our economy and environment,' she said.

Lu did the honors, joined by by Tualatin Mayor Lou Ogden and Powin CFO Ron Horne. The building is the first of three that the company plans to erect on the 36-acre property off of Tualatin-Sherwood Road. Though there's nothing but grass and marsh at the moment, the following two buildings are expected to be up in two years.

'This is exciting for a lot of reasons,' Moholt said to the crowd outside the building. 'No. 1: jobs; No. 2: jobs; No. 3: jobs.'

Powin's previous location off of Sandburg Road in Tualatin had about 15 employees. The new location houses about 30 office employees and at least 10 warehouse workers. A modest but steady flow of hires is expected to continue through the near future, according to Powin Sales and Marketing Manager Jonathan Hillman.

With a massive production catalogue, its own furniture and fitness equipment lines and a hand in energy trade, Powin still isn't done. The company launched its Channel Partner Program at the end of 2010, the goal of which is to partner with other companies in the marketing and sale expansion of their products in China. The program reviews, tests and launches the products in China in less than 90 days, providing each company with warehouse services, market testing and more.

Program Director Harry Wu said that China is ready and willing to buy quality products.

'China is the No. 1 luxury consumer in the world, and the number two consumer market in general, after the U.S.,' he said. 'Studies estimate China will be No. 1 soon. There are so many opportunities, especially for high-quality products.'

Powin also owns Quality Bending Fabrication on Herman Road in Tualatin, where a variety of its metal products are produced.

Ogden said he thinks the company is headed toward big things.

'Powin has been a big player with changes in economic concepts, development and efforts to move Tualatin to becoming a cluster of international trade and green energy products,' he said. 'When you have anyone who's forward thinking, it's a wonderful thing. This is a blooming opportunity for Tualatin. Powin is on the blast-off trajectory, rather than the downward that so many businesses are in these days. These guys are on the expansion.'

Lu agrees that his company is making great strides.

'Doing business is just like the weather: I can't control everything, but we have a game plan. We have a target,' he said.