“Made In America” – Town Hall Meeting in Buffalo

30 Nov

On Thursday Night, John Ratzenberger, host of The Travel Channel television show “Made In America” was in Buffalo at Ani DiFranco’s “Babeville” to discuss the slow death of America’s manufacturing base. WNYM was on hand to record the full event and we’d like to present it in its entirety.

Rather than boiling the issue of America’s decline as a producer of goods down to an anti-union/pro-union discussion, I’d like to point you in the direction of a comment made by BuffaloHodgepodge in this thread last week. I think it’s a good place to start the discussion…

For better or for worse, the issue actually has very little to do with either the manufacturer or the worker. It’s all about the consumer. The day consumers start lining up to spend 30-70% premiums on goods that are exactly the same except a “Made in the USA” label on it is the day consumer product and textile manufacturing returns onshore.

Or, a creative firm needs to create a luxury brand that allows it to serve a niche, profitable market at a higher price point. Appealing to patriotism has consistently failed as a marketing strategy – as shown by the Big Three automobile manufacturers since the 1980s.

What are your thoughts?

12 Responses to ““Made In America” – Town Hall Meeting in Buffalo”

  1. Pauldub December 1, 2007 at 6:17 am #

    I think BHP is pretty close to the mark. Without some sort of government intervention, (jacked up tariffs, massive tax breaks for domestic manufacture), the cost of that Made in the USA tag is going be be higher. To a point where it will be considered a luxury for many consumers. This may sound unpatriotic, but I rarely make purchasing decisions based on place of manufacture. Best quality at the best price. I go for what I can afford.

  2. Jim December 1, 2007 at 7:45 am #

    I’m getting very frustrated with the whole “decline of America’s manufacturing base” idea. This is a worldwide economic change that has very little to do with the present or absence of unions, and it’s not even a matter of the “decline” of manufacturing in America–it’s the RISE of education, living standards, and technology in places like India and China. (Obviously, living standards for the majority in south Asia are not comparable to ours in North America, but there has clearly been a steady rise, and the continued growth of industry in those parts of the world will only help.) It’s disappointing that some elements of the America-first, pro-union left can’t see that the growth of manufacturing in other parts of the world helps all of us.

  3. Lildub December 1, 2007 at 9:44 am #

    First manufacturing headed down south. Lower taxes, didn’t have to pay as much, and plenty of people eager for those lower paying jobs. Now manufacturing is heading over seas for those exact same reasons. Is it frustrating? Yep. But it is a said and done thing now. We could jack up tariffs till we pay out the nose for those cheapy plastic toys and microwaves, but it doesn’t mean that the price of US goods will come down enough for some of us to afford them.

  4. Fed-Up in WNY December 1, 2007 at 10:34 am #

    Who all went to the Town Hall meeting? I was there. I was sitting in the second row.

    “It’s all about the consumer. The day consumers start lining up to spend 30-70% premiums on goods that are exactly the same except a “Made in the USA” label on it is the day consumer product and textile manufacturing returns onshore.”

    Try finding the “Made in America” label on products in our stores. I wrote in on my blog, you won’t find a section in any Wal-Mart store.
    http://fedup.wnymedia.net/blogs/2007/11/29/keep-it-made-in-america-comes-to-buffalo/

    Try finding an American Flag that wasn’t made in China. 😦

  5. Fed-Up in WNY December 1, 2007 at 10:51 am #

    To Jim, how is loss of America jobs to China & Mexico helping us here? Tell me how a middle age hard working man is supposed to support his family when one morning he wakes up, goes to work and finds his manufactoring job has been shut down over night and moved to Mexico?

    In the mean time America children are playing with toys tainted with lead-based paint. 😦

  6. Buffalopundit December 1, 2007 at 11:20 am #

    Doesn’t American Apparel do the overpriced-sweatshirts-but-made-in-USA thing? That’s a good example of what Hodgepodge was talking about. It can be a viable business plan.

  7. Buffalo Hodgepodge December 1, 2007 at 2:16 pm #

    BP’s recent post about the automotive industry is timely and targets this issue well. For example, people often forget that many “American” cars are actually A LOT CHEAPER than imported brands. I paid $14500 net of rebates for a fully loaded Ford Focus. An equivalent Honda Civic is much higher-priced. Nevertheless, most American brands are losing market share.

    Soapbox for a moment: most people incorrectly interchange the terms “price” and “cost”. They are, in fact, completely different concepts. Price is a marketing issue – and is a reflection of the perceived value of the product/service. Cost is an operational issue.

    The point of that digression is that there is only one way to profitably compete against lower-cost producers — by delivering more perceived value. Perceived value can be tangible (lower total cost of ownership, service responsiveness, ease of business process) or intangible (brand appeal).

    Don’t bring more value? You get killed by the consumer. Plain and simple. Exhibit A: General Motors.

    Right now – it’s almost impossible for a US company to bring a whole lot more value with home-based manufacturing of toys or flags. That’s why apart from the niche marketing strategy – it’s a tough road to hoe.

    That’s also why you won’t find them at Wal-Mart anymore – because consumers demonstrated their preferences on these products years ago and they’d be sitting in inventory if Wal-Mart’s purchasers made any such buying decisions today.

    It’s also why Congresswoman Slaughter should be focusing many more sustainable avenues to rebuild WNY’s economy – like focusing on technology, business services, logistics, and other opportunities that can benefit from our location, onshore cost advantages, and educated workforce.

    One other point: Does anyone bemoan the fact that the share of the American workforce involved in agriculture has dropped from 41% in 1900 to under 2% today? Hardly. And, if anything, people are consuming too much food rather than not having enough.

    To Fed Up’s point, we need to do a much better job and spend a lot more money helping people navigate a professional transition if their industry is offshored.

    But closing the door on trade is hardly the answer. We tend to forget it here in Buffalo because we are flummoxed about a lack of good jobs but American unemployment is at near-record lows and even low-income people can afford very impressive standards of living relative to our counterparts around the world.

  8. starbuck December 1, 2007 at 9:31 pm #

    On Thursday Night, John Ratzenberger, host of The Travel Channel television show “Made In America” was in Buffalo at Ani DiFranco’s “Babeville” to discuss the slow death of America’s manufacturing base.

    Geek, by what definition is the U.S. “manufacturing base” experiencing a death, slow or otherwise?

    Although U.S. manufactuing employment is on the decline, isn’t it true that U.S. manufacturing production is continuing along on a strong long-term increase?

    Obviously, increased efficiencies and automation are requiring fewer U.S. workers even while U.S. manfactured production keeps growing.

    The last decline in U.S. manufacturing production lasting more than a year was from 1999-2001. Prior to that, the last such dip was in 1990, and before that 1981-1982.

    Otherwise, year after year, U.S. manufacturing production is growing. How can that be considered a “death”?

    See Figure 1 on pg 5 of this: http://www.federalreserve.gov/releases/g17/current/g17.pdf

  9. Mike In WNY December 2, 2007 at 12:15 am #

    As long as the government continues to waste billions and trillions of dollars, while manipulating markets, an economic renaissance will not occur. Vastly reduced government + free markets = economic prosperity!

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