We are all affected by it. It’s on the news every night, we read about it in the paper and we all have had conversations about it. What am I talking about? The economy!! That’s why when Tracy from Media Muscle (The Book Trib) contacted me regarding today’s guest, I jumped at the opportunity to host him as a guest and hear about his book. So please help me welcome Mr. Alan Uke.
BUSINESS AND CIVIC COMMUNITY LEADER
Thirty-four years ago, Alan Uke started a company out of his University of California – San Diego dorm room. His dorm room dream grew into a successful scuba diving equipment company. It employs over 100 people in San Diego County, exports products to over 60 countries, and infuses millions of dollars into the local economy annually. Underwater Kinetics not only provides excellent products and customer service, but had provided hundreds of jobs and revenues for the San Diego area for over 40 years. In recognition of his outstanding business skills, Alan Uke was named Entrepreneur of the Year by the Entrepreneur of the Year Institute and the San Diego County Board of Supervisors.
As a business owner, he quickly learned the importance of balancing budgets, creating jobs, managing people, and cutting waste. Over time, Alan’s innovative business skills have become one of his greatest assets. He was able to use those skills to help bring the U.S.S. Midway to San Diego, turning it into a financially solvent tourist attraction that pumps $20 million a year into our economy.
WORKING FOR A STRONGER AMERICA
As a member of the World Presidents’ Association, Alan served on numerous top-level delegations in Washington and represented the voice of American business to our nation’s leadership. He met with President Bush, Vice-President Cheney, the Congressional leadership and cabinet secretaries in an effort to strengthen the U.S. economy and reduce reliance on foreign countries for vital resources. Alan also served on the Board of Directors of the San Diego Taxpayers Association. During his time on the Board and as President of the Association’s foundation, Alan committed himself to eliminating waste in local governments and lowering taxes. His commitment to protecting our tax dollars stays with him today.
Uke has experience with bringing labeling ideas before. Years ago he had an idea to inspire drivers to choose cars with lower air pollution rates rather than forcing compliance with ride sharing. After dealing with everyone from car manufacturers and the Sierra Club to the EPA, Uke’s Smog Index eventually ended up on all cars sold in the U.S. Today being able to identify cleaner cars is a major selling point in American automobiles.
Uke wants to make significant change possible again – change that will bring an immediate and lasting benefit to all Americans. By BUYING AMERICA BACK we can reclaim our strength as a world leader.
Alan Uke is a San Diego entrepreneur, community leader and founder of Underwater Kinetics, which he started 41 years ago as a sophomore at the University of California San Diego. He holds more than 50 patents and the majority of his SCUBA diving and his industrial lighting products are exported to more than 60 countries. He has won the Entrepreneur of the Year Award for Consumer Products from the Entrepreneur of the Year Institute, is a member of the World Presidents Organization and conceived of and founded the San Diego Aircraft Carrier Museum.
Q&A WITH ALAN UKE
1) What is “Buying America Back” about?
It’s about making educated choices about what you buy and how it affects the American economy. I have a business that works with countries all over the world, and the economies that do well are the ones that try to buy products that are good for their own economy. We don’t do this in the United States.
It’s hard for Americans to do because we don’t have the proper labeling on products. I’m suggesting we put labeling on products — like we label food — to tell us exactly where the products come from and in what percentages. And that will make people conscious of what products they buy and how those purchases can be beneficial to America. There is a solution and it’s in our hands.
2) What does balanced trade mean?
It means we export the same percentage of products to a country as they export to us. Right now the United States imports almost 25 percent more than it exports. This excess results in the creation of overseas jobs at the expense of American jobs.
3) Who is the audience for this book?
This book is for everybody — because it affects everyone in this country. Two-thirds of the economy is driven by consumer spending, and buying American could eventually eliminate our unemployment and our trade deficit. Countries like China do everything in their power not to buy American products. The average American doesn’t know that. What I’m hoping is that those countries that see this kind of response from American consumers will have to respond and change their policies.
4) Why should the average voter be interested in reading this book?
The solution to the American economy is in every consumer’s hands. It’s going to take mass action by the general public to get this working. We, as a culture, have to do different things – like we did with the environment. The environment was being destroyed, until we acquired an awareness by everybody of what was going on and what we needed to do.
5) You were instrumental in getting the Smog Index legislation to be adopted by the American automobile manufacturers – how did your experience with that prepare you for launching this bill?
With the Smog Index, I thought that people should know that certain cars will produce more pollution than others, because only engineers knew that, not the average person. They just didn’t think of it. But now they know, and they can feel good about knowing more, making a choice, and making a difference. The labeling bill will be similar. How and where I spend my money affects me, it affects my economy, affects employment, and affects the environment around me.
6) Tell me about the Country of Origin Labeling Act.
Congressman Brian Bilbray (R-Calif.) will introduce the legislation. There are already country-of-origin labels now, but we’re trying to improve the rules. We want the labels to be more detailed and to list the percentages of each product that are made in a certain country.
ABOUT THE BOOK
San Diego entrepreneur Uke presents a straightforward thesis in this engaging policy proposal: consumer thirst for cheap imports has strangled U.S. manufacturing employment and stifled our economy. The manufacturing sector, which lost 5.2 million jobs from 2000 to 2010, accounts for only 10% of the economy compared with its dominant role in 1965. Uke explodes the myth of a shift to high-tech output and notes that Germany and other countries with higher labor costs than ours compete successfully with Asia. He argues convincingly that the offshore exodus of production facilities entails the loss of high-paying spinoff jobs, the departure of R&D facilities and other centers of innovation, and the erosion of service-sector jobs. The proper response, Uke plausibly argues, is not across-the-board protectionism or isolationism, but empowering the consumer by toughening disclosure of country-of-origin product data. Accurate disclosure would enable consumers to reward local producers or those with high local-product content. Uke perceptively points out that this approach is increasingly popular with food, and prevalent in many other countries. Determined consumer leadership on this issue, he maintains, could goad Congress into action and prompt corporations to revive domestic production. Uke’s refreshingly invective-free writing and hands-on manufacturing experience compel our consideration; his proposal is simple and his goals are lofty. Attention should be paid. Agent: Bill Gladstone. (Apr.)
BUYING AMERICA BACK:
A Real-Deal Blueprint for Restoring American Prosperity
By Alan Uke
SelectBooks; April 9, 2012
164 pages; $16.95
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