Made in SA: Bowling balls on a roll
900 Global manufacturing high-end bowling balls on south side
For San Antonio shoppers looking to buy American, one South Side factory is making something right up their alley: bowling balls.
Inside the Rilling Road manufacturing plant of 900 Global, one pearly red and purple ball after another rolls off the line. Each is labeled with the words "Made in USA."
"In the states, USA still means something on bowling products because it shows there's a little more quality built in it," said Mike Sellers, one of 900 Global's founders.
The company makes balls for several brands including AMF, Lane 1, Radical, Seismic and Jet. They also manufacture their own line of high-end bowling balls, with catchy names like Freight Train, Jewel and Dirty Look. The are carefully engineered right down to the core.
Each core is weighted and designed to give it a certain spin to affect performance on various lane conditions.
The balls are crafted in three stages: the core, pouring the shell and then the finishing.
Abouth 60 percent of the product stays in the U.S., and the remainder is exported primarily to Asia and Europe, according to Sellers.
"We sell to distributors, the distributors sell to pro shops and consumers walk into those pro shops," he said.
The company makes about 400 balls a day and has 25 employees, roughly half what it once had. Bowling leagues just aren't what they used to be.
"There's so many things for people to do these days, so the competition against bowling has drastically gone up," Sellers said.
His other worry is manufacturers going overseas, making less expensive product with super cheap labor.
While league bowling has been declining, Sellers sees recreational bowling on an upswing. He intends to roll with it and capitalize on that changing demographic.
900 Global has its roots in the former Columbia Bowling, which was bought by a competitor and moved to Kentucky after a massive fire that crippled the plant.
Sellers hired several former Columbia employees and bought some of the equipment to lauch 900 Global in 1997.
With the growing consumer sentiment to buy products made in America, Sellers is hoping business will grow as well giving him reason to create more jobs and make more bowling balls with the Made in USA label.
To read more stories from Marilyn Moritz, click here.
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