Afternoon Coffee: Some Olympic Garb Made in US, Beef Prices Increasing, Industrial History of Tacos

A clothing manufacturer's reason for keeping it local.
Philadelphia's Boathouse Sports outfitting Olympic rowers -- The company processes about 45,000 orders a year and has annual revenues of about $20 million. It pitches its products to coaches and athletic directors with the simple message that Boathouse will manufacture custom uniforms and deliver them within 20 days of an order - a difficult timetable for a Chinese factory. "We do everything from design, graphics, inventory of raw materials, cutting and sewing, screening and sublimation, to putting it in a box," Strotbeck said. "We produce, pretty much, 100 percent of what we ship." Dressed one day last week in blue jeans and a black short-sleeve shirt, Strotbeck, 55, said that before he moved into his current factory he had been wooed with incentives by three Southern states: Mississippi, North Carolina, and Tennessee. He had doubts. Auto companies were investing heavily in assembly plants in the South, which Strotbeck thought could put pressure on their labor markets. Instead of relocating, he bought the former GE aerospace factory on the 400 block of East Hunting Park Avenue in 1999. The company's mostly female workforce is comprised of Asian and Hispanic immigrants.

Start saving for Thanksgiving.
U.S. Sees Food Prices Rising From Severe Drought -- The worst drought in the United States in nearly a half-century is expected to drive up the price of milk, beef and pork next year, the government said Wednesday, as consumers bear some of the brunt of the sweltering heat that is driving up the cost of feed corn. Poultry prices are expected to rise more immediately, the government said in a report. It estimated that consumer price indexes for chicken and turkey would rise 3.5 percent to 4.5 percent later this year.

The industrial history of tacos (worth the read!)
The Messy Business of Tacos -- Making tortillas by hand involves skilled labor, even with the assistance of mechanical nixtamalmills and folding presses. Moreover, tortillas, like donuts, are best eaten fresh, preferably within a few hours off the griddle. In Mexico, tortilla factories have been largely a cottage industry, conveniently located on any street corner, and operating sporadically throughout the day for customers who line up before breakfast, lunch, and dinner. This just-in-time business model, however, fit poorly in the postwar "Fordist" era of giant factories pursuing economies of scale. Mass production was needed to achieve profits on low-value commodities, and there are few consumer goods cheaper than a corn tortilla. Commercial supplies of fresh tortillas were simply uneconomical in markets without regular demand from knowledgeable consumers, which basically meant everywhere except Mexico, Central America, and a few cities in the United States. By contrast, taco shells could be produced in bulk, wrapped in plastic, stored in warehouses, and shipped around the world, albeit with some breakage. They were also easier to eat than fresh corn tortillas, at least for consumers unpracticed in the deft art of rolling their own tacos.

Data grammar.
Is the Word "Data" Singular or Plural? --
I recently attended an event where many of the other guests worked in corporate communications. A professor lamented that many of today's students brought up with text messages and Twitter don't write well. Another attendee agreed, noting that on three recent occasions she has heard people say, "Data are." I chimed in, "What's wrong with that? The word 'data' is plural." That's what my supervisor in my early days in industry at Bell Laboratories insisted. That's what the copy editor of Creating More Effective Graphs said.

- Sheena Moore

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