Monday, July 20, 2015

Support our economy. Buy American

You might be familiar with Sentry products. They are a world-renowned manufacturer of fireproof safes, be they the cabinet style or the smaller versions that you would hide under your bed or in your closet. Sentry has called Rochester its home since 1930. That will no longer be the case in 2016.

Last year the founding family of Sentry sold their company to Master Lock. They chose Master Lock because they were, of the six suitors, the company least likely to move production. Unfortunately, last month, their workforce learned that Master Lock was not being upfront during the purchase. Master Lock is closing the Rochester plant and sending the work to Mexico. 350 Sentry employees will be out of work, losing jobs that they reasonably believed they would hold till retirement.

It’s a sad development and, unfortunately, nothing new to upstate New York. Companies like Sentry have been and are disappearing.

We can sit here and blame Master Lock (which we should, because Sentry is healthy and profitable), but we should also look in the mirror. Americans – as citizens and consumers – are doing no favor for USA-based manufacturers. Low-cost overseas production and its associated inexpensive consumer goods comes from Americans’ demands for items at prices not possible within our borders due to the high cost of business and restrictive regulations that inhibit the free market. Only in China and Mexico could our insatiable materialism be satisfied at prices we are willing to pay.

While outsourcing allows people from all class levels to purchase consumer goods and durables that they were unable to purchase before, assuring that low-income people can appreciate consumer goods once only afforded by middle-and-upper income earners, it comes with an undesirable side effect: the private sector of the United States is transforming into a service economy, taking away the incredible economic benefit that comes with a powerful manufacturing sector.

Service economies have limited economic impact because they either take what is made elsewhere and sell it or they use humanity to appease humanity. Therefore, the value-added effect is relatively slim because there is minimal investment of resources, technology, and personnel to "create" what is produced or offered. Mathematically stated, the service sector generates an additional 71 cents of economic activity for every one dollar in sales.

By comparison, for every dollar of manufactured goods sold to a consumer, another $1.43 is created in sectors outside of manufacturing. Manufacturing creates true wealth for a nation because it creates or empowers a multitude of support functions. It needs people and equipment to extract resources and create and or commodities used in manufacturing processes. It needs the transportation sector to get goods from point A to point B. And, it needs the service sector to market and sell its products.

You may be wondering how we prevent further losses in manufacturing and keep the economy strong with American-made goods. Since the government has done little to rectify the impediments that affect American manufacturing, we cannot leave it to the powers-that-be to address the issue (bailouts and stimuli only make matters worse). It requires instead a grassroots effort by each and every one of us as consumers to act in a patriotic fashion and use our role in the free market to our nation’s advantage.

You will see grocery shoppers traversing the aisles investigating cartons and labels to see what a food item is made of and how much the product might yield. Yet rarely do you see that same sort of inquisitiveness in department stores. Those shoppers might buy only on the factors of impulse, name brand, and price, satisfied only with the visual presentation of the products and the brief product description plastered on the face of the carton. Rarely do they turn the carton over to see if the item was manufactured in America.

Such label shopping would not be in vain, for goods are still manufactured in the United States and, believe it or not, at growing levels in some sectors. While we may be losing what could be considered manufactured "commodities," the United States still produces durable goods ripe in volume. Buying American-made products does not make one a bad shopper either, for, despite global market trends, many American products remain very competitive in pricing and all are vastly superior in engineering, quality, usability, and durability.

We as nation of consumers need to buy smartly. We need to buy American. Doing so not only satisfies our buying urge but it also helps to keep real, honest-to-goodness Americans (our friends, families, and neighbors) employed and our economy strong. You don’t want a Sentry-like disaster to hit your neighborhood.

From the 20 July 2015 Lockport Union Sun & Journal

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