Northwest fireworks shows may face tough decisions

By Jeni Banceu

The Columbian

The owner of an Oregon pyrotechnics company worries that tariffs on fireworks would hurt small, family-owned businesses because they would have the most trouble absorbing the additional cost.

Having grown up in the industry, Heather Gobet said it’s her understanding that the majority of fireworks businesses are family owned and have been for generations. Gobet owns Western Display Fireworks in Canby, Ore., which has been around since 1948.

“I understand the mind-set of tariffs where the United States is competing, but more than 95 percent of fireworks are from China,” Gobet said Tuesday.

“This doesn’t make any sense. There is no U.S. firework industry to protect, and it is going to dramatically impact these small, family businesses that are in the firework industry. “

Western Display Fireworks puts on approximately 200 displays on the Fourth of July and another 150 throughout the year. During the summer, it employs more than 1,000 people.

Vancouver’s Fireworks Spectacular, produced by The Historic Trust, has used Western Display Fireworks for many years, organizer Jennifer Harmon said Wednesday. If the price goes up due to a tariffs increase, she said, it is hard to say how that could affect future shows.

Gobet said the cost of putting on a fireworks display would increase but not by the entire 25 percent of the tariffs. There are additional costs for putting on a show: trucks, labor and other materials. Even though the price increase might be lower than the tariffs, she said choices would have to be made.

“Communities will have to either increase their budget, or they will have to get by with a smaller show,” Gobet said.