Companies are bringing operations back from overseas, and consumers are increasingly attuned to the source of what they are buying.
Dan Lyter assembled a swivel dinning chair on the assembly floor of By The Yard of Jordan, Minn. With the comeback of the Made In The U.S.A campaign in which consumers buy only goods made in the U.S. By The Yard, makes durable patio furniture out of recycled milk jugs. Customers call frequently to ask if products are made in the U.S. Sales are up 20-30% each year. Company just added a night shift to keep up with demand.
By the Yard in Jordan caters to a persnickety, patriotic set: Americans who only want products made in the United States.
The furniture manufacturer makes its patio tables, chairs and gliders in Wisconsin and the city of Jordan. Its showroom has been busy. Sales are up 20 percent this year as demand for its U.S.-made products has soared.
"The USA thing has been huge," said co-owner Deb Anderson. More people are walking into the company's Jordan showroom because all products are made in the United States, she said.
Buy American is back. On the heels of the Great Recession and the loss of millions of manufacturing jobs, a growing number of customers are demanding products that support the U.S. economy. The movement is manifesting itself in a number of ways: Buy American commercials have returned to the airwaves, stores are carrying more U.S.-made goods and several Minnesota companies are moving their operations back to the United States.
The whole mission "is just escalating," said Steven Capozzola, spokesman for the Washington, D.C.-based Alliance for American Manufacturing.
"People now get that there is a direct connection between buying American ... and supporting the U.S. economy."
If the trend holds, it could be a boon for Minnesota's factories and the 306,000 workers they employ. Major operations in the state include 3M's Scotch tape plant in Hutchinson, Graco's sprayer facility in Minneapolis, Honeywell's thermostat plant in Golden Valley and Polaris' ATV and snowmobile plant in Roseau.
Already, several local companies have recommitted themselves to the United States, creating jobs in new plants on American soil. On top of building goodwill, having operations in the U.S. improves quality and cuts shipping costs and delays, companies say.
Average wages in China have spiked 10 to 25 percent a year, hitting $4 to $6 an hour in some factories, according to several manufacturing trade groups. Shipping costs can hit $1,800 for a single container leaving China for California, according to the shipbroker giant Clarkson PLC. Add in high fuel costs, and offshore manufacturing is no longer dirt cheap, economists said.
Last month, Edina-based Paddi Murphy said it was moving its Softies sleepware business from China to the United States. And earlier this year, Eden Prairie-based Element Electronics ceased production of its largest TVs in China and started making them in a facility in Michigan.
"It will cost us about the same, and our owner, Mike O'Shaughnessy, just really wanted to move jobs to the USA. That was the motivation," said Element account manager Erin Walters. The Michigan plant will initially employ 100 workers, with room for expansion.
State Rep. Tom Rukavina, DFL-Virginia, who once ran for governor on a platform that boasted that every stitch he wore was made in Minnesota, said it's no surprise that the movement has resonated.
The Buy American push had faded, largely because of cheaper-made imports. But since 2002, about 3.5 million manufacturing jobs were lost nationwide and "people are realizing it's important to keep money local."
Before retiring this year, Rukavina was determined to give another shout-out to the state and the nation with a last-minute amendment in May that required that the new Vikings stadium be built with beams forged in U.S. steel mills and from Minnesota iron ore. In addition, 25 percent of all other stadium products must be Minnesota-made.
"We have always had in the stadium bills some made-in-America provision. This is just a theme I have believed in my entire life," said Rukavina, who also once fought for a bill requiring the state to hang only U.S.-made flags.
Response to recession
Some consumers sidelined by the recession have vowed to become more patriotic shoppers.
"Personally, I do check where things are made before I buy," said Pamela Pommer of Bloomington, who was laid off twice in three years. "Now that I'm working again, I have gone back to shopping at grocery stores that hire union workers. ... I pay a lot more attention to" where things are made.
The passion for domestic production and patriotic purchasing is much broader than Minnesota. It is a resounding national effort that is growing louder.
Consider the much ballyhooed Chrysler Super Bowl ad from 2011 that unveiled the automaker's "Imported from Detroit" campaign. Google just introduced a new wireless media player that will be its first product stamped "made in America."
While Starbucks sells coffee from Kenya and Costa Rica, it has also taken on a patriotic mission. It launched an Americans Helping Americans Create Jobs campaign last year and now funds grants to pay the salaries of new hires at nonprofits.
"It's a real popular sale," said Menards spokesman Jeff Abbott, adding that Menards takes pride in being a Midwestern store that promotes U.S. manufacturers and jobs.
The Made in America push is also having an impact abroad.
This spring, Gov. Mark Dayton and the Minnesota Trade Office ran business trade missions to South Korea, Japan and China and separately launched a campaign for local manufacturers to sell overseas for the first time. The goal is to create 100,000 new Minnesota jobs by 2017.
Why the sudden interest? It's economics, said Chad Moutray, chief economist at the 12,000-member National Association of Manufacturers (NAM).
"Yes, it's important for us to be buying more products that are made in the U.S.," Moutray said. At the same time, "we have to recognize that we are in a global economy and so need to explore markets outside."
Dee DePass • 612-673-7725