As The Holidays Approach, Consider Filling Santa’s Sleigh With Something Local
Given a choice between a product made in the U.S. and an identical one made abroad, 78 percent of Americans say that they would rather buy the American product, according to a nationally representative survey conducted by Consumer Reports in 2013.
According to the study, 80 percent of those surveyed indicated that their primary motive in buying locally manufactured goods was their desire to keep American manufacturing jobs strong in the global economy. Sixty percent of respondents cited concerns about the use of child workers overseas or felt that American-made goods were higher quality.
“For more than 25 years, we have operated our business with a focus on supporting the American worker,” said Kory Ballard, President of Perficut Companies in Des Moines. “We believe that American companies provide the highest quality products, produced in the most ethical way, and offer the greatest innovation.”
“Because we operate a service company, our workforce is all obviously local,” said Ballard. “But we are extremely proud to equip our teams with the very best locally manufactured products from John Deere and Toro, and fill our fleet with vehicles from Ford, Chevy, and Caterpillar.”
“When it came time for a fresh look for our site management team uniforms, it made perfect sense to us to pay a visit to RAYGUN in Des Moines,” said Matt Boelman, Ballard’s longtime partner.
RAYGUN’s inventory is almost entirely produced and manufactured in the United States. The T-shirts are fair trade certified, manufactured in Los Angeles, and printed in Iowa. The paper is made in Madison. The glassware is manufactured in Iowa. The furniture is manufactured across the street from RAYGUN’s retail store in the East Village of Des Moines. However, RAYGUN founder Mike Draper said that consumer attitudes toward “buying American” are often more complex than any survey can capture.
“When Americans are surveyed, they say a lot of interesting things,” said Draper. “Everyone has the best intentions in a survey, but when Americans finish the survey and take action, there are a whole other set of activities that take place that people don’t really want to discuss during a survey.”
Draper said that consumers often respond to various factors that don’t show up on a survey. “What we have found over the last decade, is that for the most part, despite what they tell you, people don’t really care where their stuff is made,” said Mike. “What they really care about is how it looks and how much it costs.”
“So we have to have a really high quality product at a good price,” Mike continued. “But the ethical decision on how we achieve that goal is really up to owners.”
“The manufacturers have to answer the question, ‘Am I willing to sacrifice margin and profits to actually do the right thing?’” For companies like RAYGUN and Perficut, the answer is an unequivocal, “Yes.”
“When you own a business, in a sense, the business is a miniature society,” said Boelman. “As an owner, you have the opportunity to make decisions about what type of a society you want to create. And those decisions have real consequences.”
“At Perficut, our decision involve labor and manufacturing, but because we perform almost all of our services outdoors, our decisions also involve the use of natural resources like water and electricity, and considerations about what we’re putting into the environment, either through a new landscaping project or maintaining an existing site,” said Boelman.
“These decisions are always easy to make because we have committed to doing things the way they should be done, rather than the way that is the most profitable.”
With that, Mike reveals the new T-shirts that he designed for Perficut.
In Mike’s characteristic style, the shirts combine a form of sharp wit, with humor and a subtle message.
Among the samples are shirts that read, “Mow-ticulous,” “Mr. Mow-it-all,” and “Perficut: Not Competing with Great Clips.”
“The shirts were stitched in the same plant in Los Angeles where Patagonia does their stuff,” said Mike. And then with a shrug, he adds, “Patagonia gets $38 for theirs. We get $22.”