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Bedford business could get hurt if trade war with China escalates

Blue Ridge Optics, which manufactures precision laser optics, crystals and thin film coatings, is an unusual business caught in the middle of the trade war with China.

The Bedford company uses certain rare earth materials used in manufacturing high-end optics, and China is a dominant global supplier of rare earths.

Walter Siehien founded Blue Ridge Optics in 2005, and now his son Justin Siehien is the general manager. The business employs 42 people. It’s one of numerous businesses in Virginia concerned about the trade war, which could put serious strain on them unless a deal is negotiated soon.

Rep. Denver Riggleman, R-Nelson, visited Blue Ridge Optics on Friday to learn about the business and how it has been affected by the tariffs. The Siehiens both back the tariffs against China.

“We’re all for tariffs against China right now,” Justin Siehien said. “It’s an unfair market right now that they can sell optics at one-tenth of the cost and develop their technology. It’s only going to hurt us.”

Rare earth metals are a group of 17 elements that appear in low concentrations in the ground, and they’re used in products such as iPhones, electric car motors, computers and televisions.

To read more about how they are affected, check out the whole article below.