(October 15, 2007) — I prefer to buy U.S.-made products. I want to help my country. It's great if at least the final assembly is in the United States, but I really want as much full-domestic production as possible.
I'm not the person going through the automated grocery store checkout. Employ people instead.
Buying American needs to be much easier. Now is the time for companies that make their products in this country to put big labels on their packaging. Do it right now — in this time period when Christmas is looming and you pick up the newspaper and read the words “China,” “lead” and maybe even in the same story, “toxic.”
Take advantage. Plaster the American flag all over your products! Better yet, follow the lead of Step2 Co., which will include the country of origin, with two separate categories, “Made in U.S.A.” and “Made in the U.S.A. of U.S. and imported parts.”
Tom Murdough gave a surprisingly aggressive speech Sept. 14 at Plastics News' Survival Boot Camp. He retired earlier this year from Step2, and was speaking personally, not on behalf of the company. Murdough blasted mass merchants, and had some severe words for China, the source of most of the toys sold here.
He even called for taxes on Chinese-made products to force the country to free up its currency — you don't read that from a businessman every week in Plastics News!
Murdough is a genuine legend in toys. He first founded Little Tikes Co., sold it to Rubbermaid Inc., then started Step2. You can make a living making toys in Northeast Ohio, in large part thanks to this man. So what does Murdough say about labeling? After his speech, we talked. I gave him my brief position: Most consumers don't care about the country of origin. If they need a shirt, they'll buy it. So a strong made-in-America label won't turn them off. What it will do is encourage people like me. Yes, some of us are left. We have money. We're one of the big reasons Wal-Mart feels pressured right now.
Why don't companies that actually do make stuff at U.S. factories spell it out in impossible-to-miss labels sporting the red, white and blue? The few excuses I've heard are lame. Here's one: “Maybe people would see that and think it's too expensive ...”
Murdough said something interesting. It could be that mass merchants might get upset, fearing that big “Made in U.S.A.” notices would make them look bad by raising general awareness of where products actually are made. “They won't come out and say it, but that's what they're thinking,” he said.
Now that would be lame. Is that really the mentality? Is it just in the background, left unstated?
Consumer products makers, are you getting this specific message from the mass retailers? Or are you simply worrying too much? Tell me, via e-mail at [email protected] or call (330) 865-6158.
This country needs economic patriotism. And we need more leaders not afraid to tell it like it is. Like Murdough.
Bill Bregar is an Akron, Ohio-based senior reporter.