David Duprey / AP
The Wall Street Journal recently published an article on Mark Andol, the fella pictured above who has opened the “Made in America Store” in Elma, N.Y. Mr. Andol has been a tireless worker in the Buy America movement and has taken a rather strict view regarding the products he will sell in his store and on his website. As documented in the Journal article, Mr. Andol requires that before a product can be sold in his store, all of the parts and packaging must come from America. If the printing on the box of a product happened to be done in Canada, Mr. Andol will not sell the product. While I admire Mr. Andol’s efforts, I think his standard for what is a Made in America product is a bit too rigid.
As I have written about before in this blog, the Federal Trade Commission defines, from a legal standpoint, what is a “Made in America” product. My “Simply American” standard is not as strict for several reasons. First, for many products it is simply impossible to adhere to the FTC standard. There are no cars manufactured in this country that are assembled from 100% domestically produced components. Similarly, most major appliances have some components that are produced abroad because those components simply are not produced on our shores. Second, such a strict standard would lead to fewer jobs for members of our extended American family. If we should view a product made by Americans with 70% American parts as no different from a product made with 100% Chinese parts and assembled in China, domestic production will suffer. Third, adopting such a standard means in some cases forgoing having an American made product you need and want.
As an example, take athletic shoes. New Balance is the only domestic producer of athletic shoes. New Balance sells three types of athletic shoes: its “Made in the USA” collection, its “Assembled in the USA” collection, and its foreign-made shoes. To make it into the “Made in the USA” collection, New Balance must assemble the shoe in the U.S. with at least 70% U.S. made components. To make it into the Assembled in the USA” collection, New Balance must assemble the shoes in the U.S., but the shoes can be assembled with less than 70% U.S. made components. To forgo buying New Balances shoes since they aren’t made in this country with 100% American made components seems shortsighted to me.
I checked the “Made in America Store” website and New Balance shoes were not on offer. If I told the New Balance employees making shoes at New Balance’s plants in Boston, MA, Lawrence, MA, Norridgework, ME, Norway, ME and Showhegan, ME that it was a pity that New Balance shoes weren’t “made in America”, I would probably get some puzzled looks. And a few fellas might even invite me out to the parking lot in an effort to convince me of the error of my ways.
So I invite you into the “Simply American” tent. If a product is manufactured or assembled on these shores, with all or some American components, it passes the “Simply American” test. I proudly parade around Seattle in my New Balance cross trainers, though I never really cross train. But what do you think? Am I all wet again? Do you support Mr. Andol’s approach, the FTC approach or the Simply American approach? Please leave a comment and weigh in on what “Made in America” means to you.