Commentary: Next time you're shopping, look for a 'Made in the U.S.A.' label


Unemployment is one of the most persistent problems facing our nation. Buying products made in this country is the most direct way you can help create jobs for unemployed members of our extended American family. The United States imported $600 billion worth of consumer products last year. If Americans were to substitute $100 billion worth of American goods for $100 billion of imported goods, we could create more than 1 million American manufacturing jobs. All you have to do to help is to make products manufactured in this country your default choice when you go shopping.

Buying American is easy, given the abundance of outstanding American products. Cars, major appliances, furniture, apparel and shoes are all produced in this country, both by firms that have been in business for more than a hundred years and firms launched in just the past few years. The renaissance of the Big Three automakers is well known, but did you know that Hondas, Toyotas, BMWs and Volkswagens are manufactured by American workers? Some of the finest appliances you can buy are made by Sub-Zero, Viking and Wolf, all American firms employing American workers. Virtually every piece of furniture that Room & Board sells is made by small furniture manufacturers in this country. Hart Schaffner Marx, Brooks Brothers and Karen Kane make outstanding apparel for men and women.

The finest shoes in the world aren’t made in Italy, but rather in Port Washington, Wisconsin, by Allen Edmonds. Virtually every product you or your family needs is produced in this country.

Buying American isn’t going to break your family’s budget. Consider these examples. Wigwam Mills makes stylish, durable socks in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. Wigwam’s Super 60 Seven Pair pack sells for $16. In Arcola, Illinois, the Libman Company makes brooms, mops, brushes and about everything else needed to keep your home clean. You can pick up a Libman Wonder mop at Bartell for eight bucks. Need some jeans? Both Buddy Jeans and Texas Jeans will sell you a pair of jeans made of American fabric and sewn by Americans for $29.99. You simply won’t break the bank buying American.

The American manufacturing sector is critical to our economy for several reasons. First, manufacturing jobs pay more than jobs in the service sector. Second, manufacturing firms keep American industry on the cutting edge of technology. According to a recent study by the Brookings Institution, while the manufacturing sector only accounts for about 11 percent of gross domestic product, manufacturing firms account for 68 percent of all domestic R&D spending by companies in the United States. Finally, an American employed in manufacturing can join the middle class in this country without first having to receive a four-year college degree.

Washington state is home to a host of great firms making world-class consumer goods. ManPans makes high-performance cookware in Spokane. Liberty Bottleworks is the only U.S.-based manufacturer of aluminum water bottles; its plant in Union Gap produces a dizzying array of designs. You don’t even have to leave Seattle to buy great consumer products. McKinnon Furniture’s manufacturing facility is in SoDo while its showroom is under the Viaduct on Western Avenue. Sheila McKinnon and her compatriots craft some of the most beautiful furniture you will ever see. If you need products for your next backpacking trip, Feathered Friends, Cascade Designs and Filson all make outdoor products right here in town. You would be amazed at all the wonderful products you can wear, ride and use that are made by citizens of our fine city.

Pundits say that unemployment in this country is an intractable problem completely resistant to one person’s efforts. Prove the pundits wrong. You have more power than you know. Simply by changing your default purchase to an American-made product, you can help provide jobs for Americans who so desperately want to work. All journeys begin with a first step. Take your first step today.


Seattle attorney JOHN BRIGGS blogs about the made-in-America movement at He is also writing a book whose working title is Simply American: Putting Our Extended American Family Back to Work.

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