There are plenty of reasons to manufacture your product in the U.S.--perhaps you want to support local vendors or ensure more hands-on control over the finished product. And though the conventional wisdom is that most manufacturing has moved overseas, that's a common misconception, says Bill Canis, vice president of The Manufacturing Institute, the educational, research and work force arm of the National Association of Manufacturers. Canis says there are about 300,000 manufacturers in the U.S. "More is made in the U.S. than at any time in history," he adds.
Daniel Perkins, founder of Couch Guitar Straps, manufactures his specialty guitar straps in the U.S. The Signal Hill, California, entrepreneur first commissioned a product run in Tijuana, Mexico, in 2001, and was disappointed. "I couldn't really get the quality and turnaround time I needed," says Perkins, 38. "Our design was really involved and took a significant number of subcontractors and production processes. I decided the only way I could get it made right was to get it made where I could walk onto the factory floor and see what's going on, monitor it and help make adjustments."
Perkins, who started the company full time in 2006, markets his made-in-the-USA wares as part of his eco-friendly, vegan brand image. To maintain profitability, he sells directly to consumers via his website, couchguitarstraps.com, and highlights the high-quality aspect of his locally made guitar straps. Says Perkins, "For us, it's how many [end users] can we sell to directly on our website? That allows us to get piles more margin on our products." Annual sales should hit $150,000 in 2008 with customers across the U.S. and even in international locales like Israel, London and Tokyo. Perkins pounded the pavement in his local Los Angeles area to find suitable subcontractors. Conducting that kind of research is key to finding the right manufacturing partner for your particular business. For leads on manufacturers, see the resources box (right) and also check out trade associations specific to your industry. "You want to go in with your eyes wide open," says Canis. Don't forget that overall shipping costs have risen with skyrocketing energy prices; you should factor that into your overseas vs. domestic manufacturing equation, he notes.
And if you create an artistic product like Perkins, it pays to stay close to home. "Vision, design and ingenuity can't be exported," says Perkins. "Those are the things that Americans specialize in."
—By Nichole L. Torres.
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