About two years ago I decided to build a web site that featured 100 companies that make things in the USA. By “things” I mean consumer goods since that’s what American seem to complain about most (…everything for sale in big box stores is made in China, India, etc.). Since I had never built a web site before, I also had to teach myself HTML. Also, in the middle of all this I decided to start this blog. My attention span isn’t all that great and I wandered off to do other things from time to time, but the good news is I’m almost done. See Visible Country
That said, what I’ll start doing now is revising the website and do everything the way it should have been done if I’d known what I was doing in the first place.
A great benefit of the time spent is that I now understand and have opinions on several things that I didn’t know about two years ago.
What I have learned about companies making consumer goods in the USA.
1. Some of these companies are hard to find.
You just can’t Google “made in USA” and expect to come up with a respectable list of manufacturers. First you’ll get pages and pages of directories of websites with lists of things made in the USA. Not what I wanted. I wanted to discover companies that might not be on the usual “buy American” lists. So you have to do some harder work, like searching the internet by state and manufacturing groups, and then back checking and verifying.
2. We make more things than you think.
Those people who say “we don’t make things anymore” are wrong. For example, home audio and watches. I thought we stopped making that stuff years ago. Turns our I was wrong. We make lots of high end audio components. We just about did stop making watches, but that’s begun to change. Stylish clothing, expertly made home furnishings, sports and outdoors equipment, we make it all.
3. We don’t make some things that we should make.
Computer electronics for example. You can’t buy any wireless routers made in the USA…I know, I tried. It’s also very hard to find any computers even assembled in the USA. It seems to me we may be losing the ability to build factories to make electronic components. This is something we need to work on.
Another thing is sailplanes (gliders). OK, not something everyone wants in their garage, but I have a category on the site called “flying”, and I planned to add a company making sailplanes. Imagine my surprise, you would think at least one company would build sailplanes here.
4. Some things will be made elsewhere.
China and India have 2.5 billion people between them. The US has about 310 million. It seems reasonable that other countries in the world are going to get good at making certain things. Factories are becoming more automated. This started a long time ago and is more responsible for the fall off in manufacturing jobs in the US, than all the off-shoring combined. Other countries have become way more capable at making textiles that we are here. Making towels and carpets and t-shirts is no longer in our wheelhouse. That’s just going to happen. Americans need to concentrate on their strengths.
5. Even if we don’t make it here we often own the company.
American companies are often criticized for making products elsewhere. Goods that American companies make for sale in other places frequently cannot be manufactured competitively in the United States. American global companies both make and sell their products internationally. If they didn’t make the products overseas, they would not even be in the marketplace. As a result, the company prospers, its shareholders (often Americans) prosper and eventually when earned profits are repatriated to the states, the international American corporations pay their taxes on it.
6. We need to re-think the “made in USA” trope.
When Americans (especially politicians) talk about the manufacturing jobs that have been lost, they are frequently referred to as: “good high paying manufacturing jobs”. The media asks the politicians about how they would create “good high paying manufacturing jobs” and the politicians respond with various schemes, as if they could wave a magic wand and make it happen. The reality is that many of those “good high paying manufacturing jobs” were hard, dirty, tedious and sometimes dangerous jobs that have been replaced by foreign manufacturers and by automation. Many of those jobs aren’t coming back.
When you go through the 100 companies at Visible Country most of what you’ll see is how Americans are creating jobs by starting their own companies to make things. This together with taking advantage of the educational opportunities that are available to all American is how “made in the USA” will make a comeback.