I’ve been reading the ongoing debate on the inclusion of mandatory “Buy American” provisions in the stimulus bill. This sort of discussion always brings out the hard hit manufacturing states, and the usual choir of ‘Manufacturing in America is Dying’. Its annoying and disturbing – the arguments never change – and nothing is done to solve the underlying problem.
The reality is manufacturing in the US has been slowly dwindling for decades – primarily because the US became a victim of its own success. The standard of living in the US grew far faster than the rest of the world. While 60% of the world has never seen an electric bulb – Americans were buying their second and third televisions. Combine a large inexpensive global work force with a domestic work force with a increasing standard of living and you have a recipe for manufacturing decline.
How do you reverse it? You don’t mandate it – “You Mr. American must buy American!” will never work. Instead you market your goods as higher quality, you market as a “premium” good, and you market as a Domestic good. Where is the “Made in America” section in Walmart? How about Costco? or Sacks? This points to a lack of product placement, and a absence of a established brand.
Americans make great products, products that are in demand the world over – from Fine Wine, to Fine Furniture or fashionable clothes. The problem is for a good to be successfully made in the USA – it must garnish a premium – and the only way to get the premium is to market it correctly. Why aren’t goods branded as “Made in America” why aren’t there commercials pointing out the superiority of the goods? Until the manufacturers get there heads out of the sand – and make a superior product (with a superior marketing plan) – they will continue to decline.
Here are some things a manufacturer can do to keep their plant alive.
- Above all else make a superior product. Quality, Finish and design MUST be superb.
- Team up with other factory owners, Co-Brand as “Made in America”. Put a flag on your packaging, complete with a trademarked slogan or name. Something like “Quality made by your neighbor”.
- Combine your advertising dollars and market the hell out of the “Made In America Brand”. Show smiling kids playing baseball with their employee fathers, pull out the sappy music.
- Finally use your newfound unity to pressure Walmart, Costco and the other National Retailers to carry your quality goods under the “Made In America” brand.
- Finally work with the media – do interviews about how you hired 100’s of Americans to make your goods.
This is how capitalism works. Centralized mandates aren’t.