By: Dee Depass, Minneapolis Star Tribune
By the Yard, a Minnesota company, caters to a persnickety, patriotic set: Americans who only want products made in the United States.
The furniture manufacturer makes its patio tables, chairs and gliders in Wisconsin and in Jordan, Minn. Its showroom has been busy. Sales are up 20 percent this year as demand for its U.S.-made products has soared.
“The USA thing has been huge,” said co-owner Deb Anderson. More people are walking into the company’s showroom because all products are made in the United States, she said.
On the heels of the Great Recession and the loss of millions of manufacturing jobs, a growing number of customers are demanding products that support the U.S. economy. The movement is manifesting itself in a number of ways: Buy American commercials have returned to the airwaves, stores are carrying more U.S.-made goods and companies are moving their operations back to the United States.
The whole mission “is just escalating,” said Steven Capozzola, spokesman for the Alliance for American Manufacturing in Washington, D.C.
“People now get that there is a direct connection between buying American … and supporting the U.S. economy.”
Average wages in China have spiked 10 to 25 percent a year, hitting $4 to $6 an hour in some factories, according to several manufacturing trade groups. Shipping costs can hit $1,800 for a single container leaving China for California, according to the shipbroker giant Clarkson PLC. Add in high fuel costs, and offshore manufacturing is no longer dirt cheap, economists said.
The Buy American push had faded, largely because of cheaper-made imports. Since 2002, about 3.5 million manufacturing jobs were lost nationwide and “people are realizing it’s important to keep money local.”
The passion for domestic production and patriotic purchasing is a resounding national effort that is growing louder.
Consider the much ballyhooed Chrysler Super Bowl ad from 2011 that unveiled the automaker’s “Imported from Detroit” campaign. Google just introduced a new wireless media player that will be its first product stamped “made in America.”
While Starbucks sells coffee from Kenya and Costa Rica, it has also taken on a patriotic mission. It launched an Americans Helping Americans Create Jobs campaign last year and now funds grants to pay the salaries of new hires at nonprofits.
The U.S. bug has even hit retailers. Menards, the multi-state hardware giant based in Wisconsin, dedicates its weekly sales circular to U.S.-made goods several times a year.
“It’s a real popular sale,” said Menards spokesman Jeff Abbott, adding that Menards takes pride in being a Midwestern store that promotes U.S. manufacturers and jobs.
Why the sudden interest? It’s economics, said Chad Moutray, chief economist at the 12,000-member National Association of Manufacturers.
“Yes, it’s important for us to be buying more products that are made in the U.S.,” Moutray said. At the same time, “we have to recognize that we are in a global economy and so need to explore markets outside.”