University of Georgia
January 2015
Economic Development
Manufacturer shows ‘Made in America’ benefits bottom line

John Anker, owner of Ankerpak in Columbus, Ga., has made good use of SBDC resources. “The things (Mark Lupo) and the SBDC do help me dig deep roots. They’ve been really good to me.”

Manufacturer shows ‘Made in America’ benefits bottom line

Small Business Development Center comes through big.

John Anker has a question for U.S. retailers: What if you could outsource to an American company at the same cost as an overseas provider? Anker, owner of Columbus-based manufacturer and distributor Ankerpak, says he frequently poses this question to buyers.

Anker sees it as his mission to bring more manufacturing and skilled trade jobs back to Georgia. “More CEOs are telling their staff to go buy American. I tell them, ‘we have your solution right here.’” Then he shows how his company can make and package a variety of products faster, better and at a price competitive with overseas providers.

“John is one of the most passionate business owners I know in his desire to build American-made products with American jobs,” says Small Business Development Center consultant Mark Lupo, area director of the Columbus SBDC. “He understands he is working against price demands placed on these retailers by the market, established supply chains, and unwillingness to change. But he will not give up.”

“John is an excellent example of the perseverance needed to get to a positive response.”

Anker believes America’s working people drive economic success. “We are walking away from the core commodity that can sustain us,” he says. He recently expanded his business by purchasing a 45-year-old Columbus compressor company, rehired all of its employees, added four more and cross-trained his existing staff to help them refurbish and remanufacture the industrial-sized HVAC compressors out of his newer facility.

This work joins the manufacturing and packaging of Sharpies—another potential offshore save—bobby pins and other products. Anker describes his plant as similar to one he saw on a visit to China: “You walk in the front door, and we’re manufacturing diversity—we make everything in the same building.”

“One of our core competencies is that we don’t have one,” he continues. “Like my plant manager says, we’re limber and flexible. We’ve got a good, stable structure and can make anything.” His employees now number 80.

Anker first asked the SBDC, which is a unit of the UGA Office of Public Service and Outreach, for help in 2009. His consultant helped him obtain a $1.8 million loan to refinance his building and equipment purchase. He is a FastTrac GrowthVenture graduate and GrowSmart speaker, has taken the ExportGA course and participates in the CEO Roundtable.

Lupo recently facilitated a collaborative effort with students from Columbus State University’s Turner College of Business to identify potential Fortune 100 customers for Ankerpak. They developed a short list by physically examining products and packaging and researching where they were made.

“I will keep going back to Mark and the SBDC,” says Anker. “The things he and the SBDC do help me dig deep roots. They’ve been really good to me.”

For more information on Ankerpak, visit www.ankerpak.com.