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Buying American could create 400 jobs in Indiana, but will the feds do it?

Industrial forklift maker Hoist Liftruck is hoping to ride a wave of Buy American sentiment into a lucrative contract to make container handlers that U.S. military forces could use on rough terrain.

April 25, 2017

A local manufacturer is gunning for a defense contract it says would result in up to 400 jobs over the next decade in East Chicago.

Industrial forklift maker Hoist Liftruck is hoping to ride a wave of Buy American sentiment into a lucrative contract to make container handlers that U.S. military forces could use on rough terrain. It hopes to win a federal contract currently held by a Swedish company whose patents expire next year, Hoist Liftruck President Vince Flaska said.

President Donald Trump just announced details of a Buy American and Hire American policy at a stop in Kenosha last week. He spent a lot of time on the campaign trail pledging that American companies and workers should come first, such as with federal government contracting.

Flaska said Kalmar, a subsidiary of the Finnish company Cargotech, has had defense contracts valued at more than $1 billion to supply the Department of Defense with Rough Terrain Cargo Handlers, the heavy-duty equipment that can move storage containers on sand and other unstable surfaces, since 2000. The military refers to them by the acronym RTCH.

“Many of the Army bases that these trucks went to don’t need a RTCH, and don’t use them,” Flaska said. “A lot of these trucks just sit there and have been a waste of taxpayers' money, and is military funding that could have gone to better use.”

Kalmar dismissed Hoist Liftruck’s accusations, but declined to comment on specifics, citing company policy.

“At Kalmar, our company policy is not to comment on any information regarding ongoing business opportunities, our customers or competitors as they speak for themselves,” said Maija Eklof, vice president of marketing and communications for Kalmar. “There is no truth behind these arguments.”

Hoist hopes to expand defense contracts

Flaska said Hoist Liftruck has supplied military posts such as Fort Knox, Fort Stewart and Camp Atterbury with its own lift trucks that can move containers from an asphalt base, but has not been able to procure the more lucrative contract for the rough-terrain lifts. It tried unsuccessfully in 2013 to sell its own all-terrain reach stackers to the federal government, though Flaska believes his company can supply the military at a lower cost to taxpayers.

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