Taking a closer look at what exactly is ‘Made in America’

Published 5:05 pm Tuesday, May 3, 2016

With my recent travels to China and our community’s efforts to expand its efforts in a more global way, I have been a bit surprised by a few of the comments I have received about “Buying American”.

Being as patriotic as anyone I know, and yet also mindful of the changes in the global economy, I decided to look at just what things and brands are still made in America.

Outside of our home, the biggest single purchase for most Americans is the automobile. I have personally driven Volvos since my children were young, initially because of the fact it was considered the safest car in the world. Volvo is no longer a Swedish company, though it is headquartered near Gothenburg, Sweden. For the past 16 years, Volvo has been owned by the Chinese company, Geely Automobile Holdings.

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Growing up, the Big Three carmakers in America were General Motors, Ford and Chrysler. Times have changed since then. The truth is there is no automobile or truck that is 100% made in America. In fact, of the 10 vehicles with the highest percentage of American produced parts, three are built by Toyota and 2 by Honda, all assembled in American plants.

The Ford F-150 has been the best-selling truck for decades; in fact, the best-selling vehicle period. Even this truck that has been advertised as an American icon since shortly after World War II is only 75 percent American made. The Dodge Ram is 66 percent American made, while the Chevy Silverado is only 40 percent.

Both the Ram and Silverado are sometimes assembled in Mexico.

I am proud to say that there are some iconic brands that are still largely American made. The Airstream, a travel trailer I traveled the country in with my Grandparents, is American made. The Louisville Slugger, the wooden baseball bat of choice when I was growing up is still made in Louisville, Kentucky.

The Slinky, a favorite of children since 1945, is still made by 115 employees in Pennsylvania using American steel. Kohler bathtubs are made in Wisconsin. Its 6,500 employees use mostly recycled and reclaimed iron in their products.

Merle Norman cosmetics are still made in this country, for women who only want to wear American made makeup. I am the proud owner of a restored Steinway & Sons piano that is over 125 years old. It is the last major piano maker still making music in the United States.

You can ride to work on an Indian Motorcycle which is hand-assembled in North Carolina and you can cook your food in Regal Ware pots and pans, manufactured by the same company in Wisconsin that produced more than five million canteens for the Boy Scouts.

Beyond that, you would be hard pressed to live your daily lives if you insisted on only using 100% American products. You wouldn’t have a cell phone to talk on, a radio to listen to, or a television to watch. Your diet would be pretty restricted, with fresh fruits and vegetables only available during the domestic growing season.

It would not impact the things that we import, but also the things we export; things we produce and sell here locally for the world market. Our agricultural economy here in Southwest Georgia would be severely hampered if we only sold domestically. Ask a local farmer what would happen if he could not sell peanuts or cotton overseas.

Ask Lewis M. Carter Manufacturing, located here in Donalsonville, what would happen if they could no longer export their machinery around the world.

The truth is we live in a global economy. It is not something to fear, but it is something to watch. We must remain competitive, constantly trying to make our goods and services better, because our competition around the world is doing exactly the same.