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Jerseyans pushing 'Made in USA' movement to reshore more manufacturing

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American Fittings CEO Allen Fischbein feels more needs to be done for American companies.
American Fittings CEO Allen Fischbein feels more needs to be done for American companies. - (PHOTO BY AARON HOUSTON)

Major League Baseball imports hand-stitched balls from Costa Rica for America's pastime.

Levi's, the denim icon of American culture, are made on almost every other continent but North America.

And the steel used to construct our nation's most symbolic building, the Freedom Tower, came from a mill in Luxembourg.

Even though 60 percent of Americans said they'd be willing to pay extra to buy American in a national survey conducted by Consumer Reports last year, the United States continues to import items that some feel could be produced just as cheaply and easily here.

The key, proponents say, is getting the word out about reshoring and enforcing Made in the USA contracts where they exist.

First, reshoring — or the idea of bringing manufacturing back to this country.

Harry Moser, an Elizabeth native who used to work for the sewing machine manufacturer Singer, started the Reshoring Initiative in 2010 to prove to companies that moving offshore for lower material and labor costs isn't always a smart move.

Many don't take into account factors such as product quality, counterfeit materials, intellectual property rights, complicated supply chains and long shipping processes.

In fact, Sandy Montalbano, a spokesman for the initiative, said "25 percent of companies would reshore right now if they did the math, which equals 1 million U.S. jobs."

Hesitant companies can do just that on the Reshoring Initiative website, Reshorenow.org, using its free total-cost-of-ownership calculator. The initiative helps both manufacturers and suppliers determine a company's profit or loss impact should they decide to reshore or remaining overseas.

"If we substituted domestic production for imports, we could increase manufacturing jobs by 4 million and overall employment by 8 million jobs," Montalbano said. "And when a factory opens up 100 jobs, 100 people move into the area and demand other resources."

Now, about that Made in the USA thing.

Manufacturers have long complained that no one is properly enforcing "Buy American" clauses in contracts.

Assemblyman Troy Singleton (D-Mount Laurel) is trying to change that.

Singleton recently helped introduce a comprehensive legislative package to create manufacturing jobs and accelerate New Jersey's economic recovery.

Included in the legislation were two separate provisions: A3023 states that only products assembled in the United States meet the "Buy American" standards of public contract laws, and A3205 provides either a corporation business tax or gross income tax credits for bringing business back to New Jersey.

"One of our challenges in New Jersey is that we're not manufacturing enough anymore. We've become a service-driven economy rather than a producer of goods," Singleton said. "New Jersey can be at the forefront of this manufacturing renaissance by adopting an approach that builds upon the American spirit."

American Fittings Corporation, a third-generation electrical fittings business in Fair Lawn that has grown from three employees in 1946 to 115 employees today, welcomes the attention.

All electro-mechanical parts sold by American Fittings are manufactured and packaged in-house.

The company, which has experienced a 60 percent increase in sales growth over the last five years, is looking to double in size again. But Chief Executive Allen Fischbein laments the fact that Ameican Fittings is still losing contracts to companies that closed facilities in New Jersey to move production offshore.

Bill Simmel, the company's director of marketing, said creating awareness of what "Buy American" really means is essential.

"There are only a handful of U.S. manufacturers (of fittings) left. There seems to be some confusion about that because contractors trust the little 'Made in the U.S.' stickers slapped onto large shipments that contain various products from large corporations, all with potentially different origins," Simmel said.

Fischbein and Simmel would like to see the state create an approved list of U.S. manufacturers for publically funded projects — and implement a system to follow the money trail by having manufacturers list their products' country of origin directly on quotations and then restate the origin again on the invoice when the order is complete.

"All we ask is that our government helps us protect the 'Buy American' act," Fischbein said.

E-mail to: megf@njbiz.com
On Twitter: @megfry3


Database of answers

Frank Russo, the chief executive of Hoboken-based Fabricating.com, might have a solution to the Made in the USA problem.

Fabricating.com works with nationwide manufacturers and suppliers to create detailed profiles of what they do, how many machines they have, what their capacity is, what materials they work with and more.

When a buyer makes a request, Fabricating.com provides them with a list of all manufacturers and suppliers who match their requested capabilities. The bidding process used to take four to six weeks, but Fabricating.com can now walk buyers through the entire process in just a few clicks.

Within six months of its startup date in 2012, Fabricating.com had registered 1,500 companies. The website now hosts about 4,000 registered companies and plans to expand to a bigger New Jersey location soon.

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Meg Fry

Meg Fry

Meg Fry covers manufacturing and retail. Meg joins NJBIZ with past production experience in the arts, film and television. She continues to write and market her own spec scripts and screenplays. You can contact her at megf@njbiz.com or @MegFry3 on Twitter.

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