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Fireworks industry heralds tariff delays

Krazy Kaplan employee Kenille White, of Gary, helps, from left, Austin and Ryan Cordon, of Illinois, and Breanna Cap, of Indianapolis, afternoon at the Hammond store in this file photo. The fireworks industry is heralding a delay in tariffs on China they fear will raise fireworks prices next year.

The fireworks industry, which has a major retail presence across Northwest Indiana, is heralding the delay of new tariffs on Chinese imports.

China makes nearly all the rockets, Roman candles, and other firecrackers sold at the more than 100 firework stores in Northwest Indiana, many of which are clustered near the Illinois state line or just off the Borman Expressway. Region fireworks store owners, who rely heavily on traffic from neighboring Illinois and Michigan, have expressed concerns tariffs would raise prices next year, potentially dampening sales during the key Fourth of July season.

But a delay of tariffs until December will give fireworks stores owners across the Region an opportunity to stock up and replenish their inventory before any new tariffs kick in.

"The wage and regulatory environment make it impossible to manufacture fireworks in the United States, so China remains the only source for importers," National Fireworks Association Secretary Steve Houser said. “Fireworks importers, distributors, and retailers are small family-run businesses who operate seasonally and can’t afford any costs of doing business. The roadside stands and tents where people buy them are run by nonprofit organizations like churches, veterans’ organizations and school groups that can’t afford and don’t deserve a tax on their primary method of fundraising."

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The non-profit National Fireworks Association, which represents more than 1,200 small businesses across the United States, will continue its ongoing lobbying effort to exempt fireworks from any tariffs, arguing that they have not been mass-produced in the United States for years and are unlikely to be, no matter how expensive imports get.

“Our hope is the president finally excludes fireworks from tariffs altogether," Houser said. "It’s not right to ask Americans to pay a boom tax when we celebrate our nation’s birthday.”

The National Fireworks Association estimates that at least 95% of the consumer fireworks that are shot off on Independence Day in the United States come from China, which has a near-monopoly globally on fireworks production. Houser said fireworks stores will generally have to pass any price hikes onto consumers.

"Unless the president proposes to radically change the wage and regulatory environment, China will remain the source for 95% of our nation’s consumer fireworks," Houser said. "We simply have no other option. This will force us to simply suffer under another tax.”

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Business Reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.