— -- Roger Simmermaker walks the walk when it comes to buying U.S.-made products, and that walk often is made in New Balance shoes.
New Balance is one of the few American manufacturers of athletic shoes, so it only makes sense that Simmermaker, 46, author of "How Americans Can Buy American," wears that brand.
With Monday being Labor Day, a U.S. unemployment rate of 9.1% and a creeping dread about the economy, Simmermaker is part of a renewed movement to persuade American consumers to buy products made in the U.S. to advance economic growth and keep people working.
For too long, movement leaders say, consumers have ignored where products are made and simply chased what they believe is the most inexpensive price — ultimately enriching countries like China and keeping workers there employed.
"It's important to understand that workers in China don't pay taxes to America," Simmermaker said "Only American workers do. And American companies typically pay twice as much in taxes to the U.S. Treasury compared with foreign-owned companies."
Simmermaker is an electronics technician who lives in Orlando and makes his 100-mile roundtrip commute in an American-made Lincoln Town Car.
Simmermaker came up with the idea for a book on American-made products in 1994 while shopping at the Florida Mall in Orlando. He began looking at where the products were made and found few products made in the United States. Something began to stir inside him.
He started compiling a list of U.S.-made products and the result was the 1996 book "How Americans Can Buy American — The Power of Consumer Patriotism," published by Rivercross Publishing Inc. The first edition listed about 7,500 products and services that came from American companies. Later editions now list more than 16,000 U.S.-made products and services, including a special section of 1,000 American-Made/Union-Made products.
Simmermaker also offers to send people a free Retail E-guide featuring more than 2,500 American-made products from more than a dozen popular retail stores like Dillard's, Home Depot, T.J. Maxx, and Costco.
He is a frequent guest on CNN, Fox News and MSNBC, and has been quoted in USA TODAY, The Wall Street Journal and Business Week, among other publications.
Renewed emphasis on Made in the U.S.
ABC's Good Morning America's anchor, Diane Sawyer, began a "Made in America" pledge this year, saying if every American spent an extra $3.33 on U.S.-made goods, it would create almost 10,000 new jobs in the country. She urged viewers to pledge to buy American and asked individuals to inventory their home to see what percentage of the goods were made in the U.S.
Sawyer's campaign brought even more attention to Simmermaker's and others' efforts to publicize the importance purchasing American-made goods. Simmermaker and other Buy American advocates started getting more inquiries.
Some of those came to Julie Reiser, who along with her husband, Adam, founded the Delray Beach, Fla., company, Made in the USA Certified. The company certifies "Made in the USA" claims that materials and manufacturing are domestic.
Reiser said the poor economy has led many Americans, including herself, to question mass consumerism and why we as a nation have collected so much stuff over the decades. The next question is why so much of that stuff is made in China and other foreign countries.
"Buying something that is made in the USA is something to be proud of," said Reiser. "It always makes the consumer feel good, that they're helping out the economy by keeping the money at home and helping protect jobs here."
Is the foreign-made goods threat overstated?
There is data that buying Chinese-made goods has benefits.
Research this year from the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco shows that for every dollar spent on a Chinese item, 55 cents go to U.S. businesses for services such as marketing and sales. Last year, 2.7% of U.S. consumer spending went to products made in China, according to the study. The findings may surprise U.S. consumers, given the widespread belief that the most spending is on foreign-made items, said Bart Hobijn, a senior research adviser at the San Francisco Fed who co-wrote the report with economist Galina Hale.
"But consumer spending means a lot more than going shopping," he said. "If you get a haircut, pay your electricity bill, go to the movies, that's all part of consumption."
Overall, the vast majority of goods and services sold in the U.S. are made in the country, the San Francisco Fed's researchers found. Shoes and clothing are an exception, with nearly 36% of U.S. dollars spent on Chinese-made items, compared with 25% on U.S.-made products.
Doing what you can?
A few years ago, a crew from CNN inventoried Simmermaker's home to see how many of his household items were American-made. He passed CNN's scrutiny and estimates that about 85% of the items in his home are American-made —(AT) from his New Balance shoes to his 1996 Lincoln Town Car that has more than 315,000 miles on the odometer.
If a consumer achieves a 50% level of purchasing American-made products, they'd be doing a great service to the country, he said. It's a fallacy that most U.S.-made products cost more, he added. Sometimes it just takes more research to see what other brands are out there and which retailers are selling them.
"When it does cost more to buy American, we need to look at it not as an extra cost, but as an investment in America," Simmermaker said. "We may save a few dollars at the cash register every now and then, but we are losing far more as a country than we are saving individually."