Widgets Magazine

Declaration of Independence, Regained

July 2 was Made in USA day. If you were unaware of this don’t fret as knowledge of the day came to most of us in the form of a CrestronHQ tweet late in the day.
Made in USA day has to be one of the single least promoted advocacy days I have ever encountered.  More folks know of the international speak like a pirate day – it should not be that way.
Jingo July?
For those of us who specify, sell, and install audio visual devices and systems in the US it is a curious conundrum. While the majority of our clients are American, and most of our staff is American – the lions share of the devices we install are made elsewhere.
There are a fair number of “Made in USA “ AV manufacturers who should be proudly stating this fact, and not just on a celebratory day.These are built from the ground up companies who, despite all temptations to widen margins,  do not export  the building of  their products elsewhere. It is a core strength we need to resurrect and quickly.
Now before anyone gets their umbrage up, understand that this is more than flag waving jingoism. This is not a call to ban products by others, rather it is a declaration of independence regained.  Supporting in country products provides a real solution to some of the economic malaise which still dogs us.
Rowe Ruckus
Mike Rowe, he of the Dirty Jobs series and now of his ‘Profoundly Disconnected’ site (Mike Rowe Works programs),  reminds us – we are sorely missing the making of things. The depth of the much ballyhooed ‘skill gap’, that is employers claims that they have jobs open but cannot find workers with ready skills, is debatable.  What cannot be denied is that is truly exists.
Many make the argument that we have too long promoted the acquisition of an academic degree over a skills based training. That is, we laud the seeking of degrees in a quest for a future of  white collars over calloused hands.
There is a solid logic in promoting a back to skills training movement. Some would argue that a large percentage of folks should eschew a college education. A middle ground is preferred – there is value in an technician understanding Telemachus’s tale.
The question has to be asked, just why has the making of things been moved to beyond our borders? Of course part of the answer is that places with cheaper labor help lower prices and increase profit margins.  Is that all there is to it?  What is driving this race to the bottom?
Our Own Damn Fault?
You and me, we are, in part, driving manufacturing out of the country. We as a culture aspire to live with the material evidence of wealth, or at least the appearance of such. It is a false sense but one we embrace with a fervor.
We cannot have just one 60” TV in the house, we need four, no wardrobe is complete without at least six pairs of shoes you will only wear once.  Our expectations of material  possessions demands that they be cheap and near disposable and this is not something which supports a thriving manufacturing sector.
The middle class’s  foundation is firmly cemented in skilled manual labor.  Taking this away not only erodes our ability to be self sufficient but dissolves the source of our national strength. One cannot bemoan the loss of American made products while simultaneously demanding more for less.
Is buying American a Panacea? No, yet it is a start and for awhile it may mean doing more with less. It has to be recognized that paying a fair wage to a US worker (even when margins are reduced) results in higher product prices.
The request is this, pay more knowing it is not just going to a higher margin but raising up of your neighbors.  Despite some of our own doubts about a national willingness to  be blue collar, we are ready.
Maker Motivation
There is desire from Americans to become makers once again.  One only has to look at the rise of the Maker movement and its well attended festivals. Then there is the booming US Science and Engineering Festival at which Infocomm became a major sponsor of this year. Local festivals have sprung up all over the country and artisan collectives are seeing higher demand for their homegrown classes.
It is time to tap into this groundswell.

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