“Made in the USA.” When we see this on a product, buying it makes most of us feel pretty good. We know that we’re supporting American jobs and the economy, which is something politicians on both sides of the political spectrum have emphasized for decades. 

But what does “Made in the USA” really mean—for the consumer? What’s the good, bad, and the ugly (OK, there’s not that much that’s ugly)? Here’s what you need to know. 

Made in the USA – label 

Companies must follow very specific guidelines to be able to put a “Made in the USA” label on a product. Products must be entirely or virtually entirely made in the United States, as established and overseen by the Federal Trade Commission. This policy definition includes the 50 states, District of Columbia, and all US territories and possessions. And it’s not just the final product; the standard for “Made in the USA” means that all significant parts and processing of the product must be of US origin and—in the case of manufacturing and assembly—take place in the US. 

Ultimately, a “Made in the USA” label means that there is no foreign content in the product and that the product was made in one of the US states, districts, or territories. 

For most products, there is no requirement to disclose origins, but many companies and manufacturers see the label as a positive—a differentiator that may make products more attractive to US buyers. 

What it means for consumers

Since March 2020, we’ve all learned more about supply chains and global trade than we ever expected. Container ships lined up at ports or stuck in the Suez Canal let us see where our goods come from, and how the global supply chain affects what shows up on shelves at Wal-Mart and Target. We’ve also learned how sourcing from lower-cost regions of the world like China and India can be vulnerable to shutdowns, lockdowns, shortages, and more, affecting American consumers in multiple dimensions from availability to cost. 

While this visibility has heightened awareness, the reality is that there has been a shift underway for some time. Consumer preference has tilted toward US-made goods for several years, and recent research reveals that consumers are willing to pay up to 20% more for goods made in the USA. This is true for consumer goods as well as business-to-business and industrial purchases. 

In addition, many people not only feel that “buying American” is more patriotic, but also that USA-made goods are of higher quality. It may be perception, but it’s a perception that sticks. 

Of course, our shift toward buying American comes after a nearly 30-year cycle of demand for lower-cost goods that pushed production from the United States into lower-cost regions of the world. This cycle is shifting back to US soil as people realize that the ultimate cost can damage the national economy—and perhaps even our position of power and influence in the world. 

Why local business matters

Global trends and national business matter to the economy. But so do local small businesses. In fact, research has shown that 67 cents of every dollar spent at a local business stays in the local economy. In addition, every dollar spent locally generates another 50 cents in business in the local community, creating an amplifier effect. Imagine it this way: you purchase shoes at a local shoe store, and the owner of that shoe store makes a purchase from another local business, and the money continues to travel around and within your community. 

Small businesses have enormous collective power. In fact, together US-based small businesses generate $4.8 trillion in gross domestic product (GDP)—making them equivalent to the third-largest economy in the world.  

Gutter Sense – proudly made in the USA 

Given what we’ve shared about “Made in the USA” and local businesses, we’re especially proud that Gutter Sense is made in the USA. All components and labor are sourced locally to our Chicago-area business, from the nuts and bolts to the pull rope, monofilament, insert cards, polybags, and injection-molded tongs. Each tool is also assembled locally, meaning that we adhere to the strictest definition of “Made in the USA.” 

In addition, Gutter Sense is a small, family-owned business. My daughter Paige and I run everything from customer service to operations and order fulfillment. We feel great satisfaction knowing that we’re behind a product that makes people’s lives easier and that contributes to our national and local economy.