‘Made in America’ more than just a mantra

Everyone wants “Made in America,” but few are willing to pay extra for an American-made item.

I understand many can’t afford anything but the least-expensive product. But those who can afford to spend more often don’t chose to look for the “Made in America” label. They are blissfully unaware of how their purchasing choices drive the larger markets or even the local economy. Or perhaps they’re just so proud of being thrifty shoppers, the larger picture doesn’t occur to them.

There are local shops in which to buy clothing, jewelry and gifts, and I hope they can be the David to the soon-to-open Goliath named Kohl’s.

Greenfield’s best hope is that shoppers will spread the wealth, remembering those entrepreneurs who give our city its flavor while supporting this new retailer who is taking a chance in our community.

We also can hope that Kohl’s will be a good corporate neighbor, granting to local nonprofits who partner with the local government to complete a virtuous cycle of giving back to the community.

In a larger community, Indianapolis, a west-side manufacturer sells waffle cushions to hospitals around the world. They actually export to China. But the medical industry has become homogenized, with smaller hospitals gobbled up by larger hospitals. Consortia of purchasing agents far removed from local concerns tell the hospital conglomerates what to buy. These decisions are usually always driven by price alone.

These purchasers use the short-term bottom line as their measure of success. “Made in America” is not enough to sway them from purchasing an imported product rather than one made here, sadly, even if it’s just a few pennies more. Sadder still, even if it’s made in their own local economy.

Genuflecting to lower prices, and letting price alone determine the value of a thing, needs rethinking by individuals, business and government.

It’s more than time for us to be like the Bhutanese, who are the only people to factor happiness into their gross domestic product (GDP). From The Guardian, “Since 1971, (Bhutan) has rejected GDP as the only way to measure progress. In its place, it has championed a new approach to development, which measures prosperity through formal principles of gross national happiness (GNH) and the spiritual, physical, social and environmental health of its citizens and natural environment.”

Do you think Mitch Daniels considered the local environment when he pushed for Indiana to be the pork producing capital of the world? I believe he just saw dollars without the sense.

“Think globally, act locally” is more than just a tired cliché. It serves to remind us that through our individual choices, we create the world in which we live. An example is provided by the Dali Lama. When asked, “What can you do about the world’s water problem?” — meaning shortage — he simply replied, “I take a shower instead of a bath.”

This seemingly flippant answer reveals the very idea of where power truly resides: within each of us. Can one person’s decision to use less water affect the water crisis in other parts of the world? No. But can many deciding to use less water change it?

If we chose to support our local businesses, especially in the heart of our city, we’re doing our part for the greater good. It’s not enough to wave the flag; you have to put your money where your flagpole is.

Donna Steele of Greenfield is a member of a variety of community organizations aimed at bettering the city, including Greenfield Main Street and the Greenfield Coalition. Send comments to dr-editorial@greenfieldreporter.com.