While we are still working on sending coals to Newcastle and on selling ice to Eskimos, an Americus, Georgia, business is happily selling chopsticks to China and Japan. China has a shortage of trees and the southeastern United States has always had those. All that was required was an entrepreneur and a chopstick manufacturing plant. CNN Money has the story:
Jae Lee, a U.S. citizen originally from South Korea, says his company is America’s only chopsticks manufacturer and exports them to China and Japan.
Lee started Georgia Chopsticks earlier this year in a town called Americus, population 17,000. He said that his 102 employees can’t keep up with demand from hungry Asians. As a result, he has plans to expand dramatically, hiring an additional 800 workers next year.
Thank Vladimir Putin’s Russia for the opportunity. Russia increased its timber export tax from five percent to 25 percent, creating a profitable opening for Lee, who exports 100% of his product.
In 1997, China declared a moratorium on logging its dwindling supply of domestic trees. When Lee learned of this and Russia’s increased export tax, he decided to launch Georgia Chopsticks to meet China’s demand for the disposable eating utensils. The company, only in business since April, produces four million sets of chopsticks per week.
Lee has plans to increase his product line to related niche products such as tongue depressors and toothpicks. Current demand is so strong that Lee is already considering five additional plants.