How a tiny flatware manufacturer in upstate New York could win big from $738 billion defense bill

*Article originally posted Dec 16, 2019 on By Ylan Mui

SHERRILL, N.Y. — Buried deep inside the sprawling federal bill to fund the nation’s military is a special gift for a company headquartered in the smallest city in the Empire State.

That gift is attached to a provision that requires the Defense Department to purchase certain products from U.S. manufacturers, including textiles, shoes and hand tools. Section 854(a)(1)(3) adds three words to that list: stainless steel flatware.

There is only one company in the country that still produces those utensils. Sherrill Manufacturing has been stamping forks, spoons and knives in the old red brick factories here for more than a decade, even as competition fled overseas.

“There’s no reason our taxpayer dollars should not be going to support an American company,” said Rep. Anthony Brindisi, who represents the region and fought for the change.

If the bill becomes law, the company estimates its sales could skyrocket by 50%, resulting in dozens of new jobs. The legislation passed the House last week, and the Senate is expected to vote on it Tuesday. President Donald Trump has indicated he will sign it.

“We’ve had a lot of friends and family that helped us through the tough times,” said Matthew Roberts, the company’s co-founder. “And I think when you go through very difficult times, you really appreciate when things go well.”

The story of how Sherrill was able to shoehorn its way into the $738 billion defense bill involves a stubborn executive, an embattled lawmaker and the topsy-turvy politics of the Trump era. It’s a lesson in how business gets done in Washington — and what Washington can do for business.

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