Buying American helps more than just the bottom line
By Abby Heugel
Julie Reiser, president and co-founder of Made in USA Certified, Inc., has traveled back and forth to Washington D.C. for years, and said it has always disturbed her that so many shops in the D.C. area carried patriotic items -American flag products, coffee cups with a president’s face, etc. – with labels that read “Made in China.”
“If gift shops in places that are showcasing American history don’t honor U.S. sourcing and manufacturing, the message it sends is incongruent with our nation’s values and traditions,” Reiser said. “However, this past May I purposely went into all the gift shops in the Capital Building and was pleasantly surprised to see shirts, caps, mugs and many other items all Made in the U.S. and very competitively priced.”
The Capitol Visitor Center Gift Shops opened in December 2008 when the Visitor Center opened to the public, and as a key component of the overall visitor experience, the Gift Shops’ unique product assortment is focused on the rich history of the U.S. Capitol and the U.S. Congress. Many of the products are developed exclusively for the Gift Shops, and all of the products offered for sale are made in the United States.
Best-selling items that appeal to visitors are pencils, replicas of historical documents such as the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution and collectable coins, while during the holiday season they see a shift toward gift items like ornaments, books on the history of Congress and the building of the Capitol and home décor products.
“We continually work to develop and refine our product selection,” said Susan Sisk, general manager, U.S. Capitol Visitor Center Gift Shops. “To assist us in doing so, we have hosted two Small Business Industry Days to seek out small businesses that are making unique products that we could offer in our gift shops.”
Small Business Industry Days include information sessions hosted by the U.S. Small Business Administration about making the most of government certifications and another led by Architect of the Capitol (AOC) staff about the AOC’s procurement process.
There also are one-on-one “breakout sessions,” and small business owners are provided with a networking opportunity where they can speak with representatives of some of the prime contractors who are currently under contract with the AOC.
“The fact is that there are many companies that provide products at very competitive rates and some are even cheaper than sourcing from overseas,” Reiser said. “It may take a little more time and research to find these companies, but they are out there and they are ready to do business.”
Reiser would know, as Made in USA Certified Inc. is a leader in third party, independent, non-partisan certification for the claims “Made in USA”, “Product of USA” and “Service in USA.” Consumers looking to buy American can identify products by the recognizable seal, and companies that have gone through the audit process and have successfully become certified then have the ability to use the seals as a powerful marketing and branding tool.
And according to a 2010 Harris Poll, researchers found that more than 60 percent of American consumers want to purchase products made in the United States.
“It’s important for tourists to take a true piece of America home with them when they visit an American landmark/destination,” said Allison Hamilton, marketing manager for ChemArt. “As ABC reported, if every one of us spent an extra $3.33 on U.S.-made goods every year, it would create nearly 10,000 new jobs in this country. We all need to unite as a country and focus on growing the U.S. economy, and this starts with supporting American made products.”
Since its inception in 1976, ChemArt has chosen to keep production in the United States to ensure that their products live up to the high-quality standards that customers know and expect. As the official manufacturer of the annual White House Christmas ornament, they take pride in the fact that all of their products are handmade in America.
All product packaging, print advertisements, trade show booth signage and any other means of promoting business have “Made in the USA” branded on them, and they offer several display units and small metal “Handmade in the USA” signs that retailers can display in front of the products. In addition, they’re also members of American Made Matters, a company with a mission to educate consumers that buying U.S.-made products strengthens the economy.
“A strong manufacturing base is vital to our economy, communities and society,” said Don Rongione, president and CEO of Bollman Hat Company and founder of American Made Matters. “Research tells us that for every one manufacturing job, there are four to five supporting jobs. This is more powerful than any segment of the economy.”
Rongione said it’s a common misconception that American-made products are always more expensive than their imported counterparts. While that may be true in some cases, in many cases it is not.
“Quality, durability, reliability and safety of American-made products in addition to the benefit to our people, our economy and our environment are important factors for consumers to consider,” Rongione said. “A satisfied customer will become loyal to a brand or a retailer. When a product does not last beyond a few uses, that loyalty is threatened.”
Bob Harju of Pumpernickel Press agrees, as when he and his wife began the company in 1998, they made a commitment to produce and package their cards in the U.S. using materials that are made only in the U.S. Harju said this gave them the assurance and satisfaction that every phase of the manufacturing of their product is helping people in America with work.
“I don’t think it’s that great of a cost difference, especially since the labor costs have been raised offshore, and I hear more complaints about products made offshore than I hear of the cost being a factor,” Harju said. “My opinion is that U.S. consumers are beginning to be very particular about the products they buy and about supporting our economy. If we all start making and selling products that are made in the U.S., there will be more jobs, more retailers, more buyers and a healthier country.”
If customers complain about cost, Todd Lipscomb, founder of MadeinUSAForever.com, suggests reminding them that these are American institutions that are proud to sell what Americans make with their own hands.
“Not only is the quality better and will last years longer, but is not much more meaningful to know that this was made with pride by an American earning a living wage,” Lipscomb said. “Some may still complain, but many others will thank them for it. The alternative is just another chintzy big-box store, which is as much a part of the problem as the solution.”
Hamilton agreed, saying that price point will always be a heavy factor for some retailers, but that they’ve learned that many customers are willing to pay a premium for products made in the U.S.
“The products are of higher quality, turnaround times are much quicker, shipping is much easier/cheaper and any problems with orders are much easier to solve,” she said. “Buying American helps to ensure that jobs with fair wages continue to be available to us and for future generations.”
Lipscomb added that those that are the caretakers of our nation’s history and national treasures have a special place in our society. The gift shop can be a shining beacon that we do still make things and that “Made in USA” is still meaningful.
And in the end, you truly get what you pay for.
In addition to a limited directory on their site (www.usa-c.com) of Made in USA Certified companies that have gone through their proprietary supply chain audit, Made in USA Certified, Inc. has also partnered with several directories that have more extensive lists of companies: