THE BLOG
08/18/2011 07:14 pm ET | Updated Oct 24, 2011

Why Buying "Made in America" Makes a Real Difference.

Here's a grabber headline from Thestreet.com: "Tackle Trade Deficit to Create Jobs" which goes on to unambiguously to explain that: "Halving the nearly $600 billion annual trade deficit would create at least 5 million jobs..."

Then, on the same day there's this Huffington Post blog entitled: "Dude, Where's My Job?" that lays it out in black and white: "China accounts for about 70% of our trade deficit outside of oil ... That's about a million jobs a year or 10 million over the last decade. It's the difference between 9% unemployment and 6% unemployment and the core cause of our recessionary predicament."

Wow! A clear and unequivocal declaration of what we lose when we don't buy American -- 5 million jobs to be exact. The answer seems simple -- buy American. But that's easier said than done because all too often off shore manufactured products cost less than comparably U.S. made products. 2010-11-29-JudyConsumer_Handbag.jpg It's a vicious cycle -- the less we manufacturer here -- the fewer jobs we create -- the more we are stressing average "Judy Consumer's" already stressed out family budget.

And as industry after industry has been laid low by Chinese manufacturing, arguably, it is the American toy industry that has been virtually wiped out by Chinese competitors. According to the Toy Industry Association, the U.S. toy industry generated more than $21.8 billion in sales (2010) yet more than 90% of children's toys are made in China. And that number continues to go up.

Chinese toy manufacturers strategically focus on the magic $20 - $25 price point to strengthen their stranglehold on this category. As Peter Navarro and Greg Autry in the Huffington Post article bluntly conclude: "Can any manufacturer compete with all this? Not bloody likely."

The sad result is that American toy manufacturers are largely relegated to the fringe specialty toys category populated by small, family-owned firms that emphasize woodworking skills or made-to-order stuffed animals. "Very little is manufactured in the U.S. except for specialty stuff, like handmade wooden toys," said Mr. Eric Johnson, a professor at Dartmouth's Tuck School of Business. And Kathleen McHugh, executive director of the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association, concedes that the nation now depends so much on Chinese-made toys that: "I don't know how we'll ever go back." (Source: ABC News)

Seems hopeless - doesn't it? But there's hope when we see examples like Ernest Autumn Van Den Heuvel, a N.J. heavy construction equipment operator for 30 years, who owns a one-man excavation company, Rocker Excavating. The 52-year-old adventurer turned his love of earth and big machinery into a toy called the HandTrux Backhoe; a bright-gold plastic toy that imitates a real backhoe, employing hand power instead of hydraulic power. Ernie coined the term "handraulic powered" for the power grip hidden inside the patented HANDTRUX line based on real construction toys.

As impressive as this toy is in terms of play value; it earned a featured spot on CBS' Early Show as "cool toy of the summer" and as a toy of the week by Playthings Magazine; it is far more impressive that Ernie was able to create this U.S. made toy to meet his high quality standards and be under $20 bucks.

"We initially reviewed cost of manufacturing in China and in spite of the low labor rates, found that many products manufactured there ended up being knocked-off quickly flooding the market with inferior goods." The team found that with a little imagination and clever design they could deliver a competitively priced, quality product made in the U.S. using certified non-toxic materials. "The benefits mounted when you factor in the time to deliver products to market, domestic employment and pride of restoring manufacturing here in the USA."

The result is nothing short of inspiring. The toy has achieved a toy equivalent of "A List" accolade; a permanent spot in the Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester, N.Y. Even more remarkable is that it is made here in the U.S. at a price that doesn't require a mini mortgage.

Finally - "Made in America" is made real and can make a real difference for many "Joe and Judy Consumers". Finally.