We’ve all been faced with this dilemma at one time or another: buy the “cheap” product that is made overseas (often from a major online retailer), or pay a small premium for a USA-made version. It’s a tough position to be in, especially if you are facing financial hardship or employment disruption due to any number of current scenarios. And while I believe that most US-based consumers, given a choice, would willingly patronize US companies over foreign ones, the fact remains that not everyone has the luxury to make that choice.
But for those of us who can be selective with our spending habits, it’s important to address the realities of the decision to buy foreign versus domestically manufactured goods. Some quick research will uncover the fact that the US manufacturing sector has been in decline for a considerable amount of time. But buying foreign-manufactured goods comes at a bigger price than slowly reducing our country’s capacity to manufacture domestically. The bigger concern is that our country is losing an entire base of knowledge and skills in our population. As a USA-based manufacturer of overlanding accessories, 67 Designs understands this precarious position all too well.
“In a small number of years and without active involvement on the part of US consumers, there will be a severe lack of knowledge on how many consumer and industrial goods are actually made. And this dearth of real skills and knowledge will ooze beyond US manufacturing. It is already showing up in supply-chains critical to the defense of our country.”
Basically, the continued decline of manufacturing jobs in the US results in a negative feedback loop that accelerates the loss of jobs, knowledge, and skilled individuals within manufactuing. The effects of this loss spill over from consumer goods, ultimately disrupting entire industries. But the bigger problem at hand is that this loss would appear to be irreversible, as manufacturing, tool, and die-making industry veterans retire or go out of business without the opportunity to pass on their knowledge to the next generation of workers. 67 Designs points out that addressing this issue will require a multifaceted approach: “This needs to be a priority for our political leaders in State Capitals and Washington DC, but it also needs to be a priority for consumers, entrepreneurs, investors, and financial institutions.”
The company is doing everything they can to slow this trend by “buy[ing] from companies across the US and ideally within our home state of Texas whenever we can. We also employ Americans at good wages in good conditions, and we train them in manufacturing skills. It is within the 67 Designs’ DNA and our mission—maybe even a social mission—to manufacture in the US and contribute to the American manufacturing renaissance that, among other benefits, will transfer knowledge to a new generation.”
But ultimately, it will require action on behalf of the consumer to make real changes and drive demand for domestically-manufactured goods. “Change comes from more consumers who as part of their selection criteria seek genuine original American-made products vs. imports and knock-offs,” says 67 Designs. And when no domestic options exist, they suggest that we “look to like-minded overseas companies that do not use child labor, slave labor, forced-labor camps and do not steal intellectual property.”
“Once we tackle our own domestic struggles and return to strength through employment in manufacturing, we can start turning to those abroad, as we would like. However, an unstable social foundation at home is incapable of holding others up for very long.”
Learn more about how 67 Designs is fighting to save US manufacturing on their website.