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A new generation of 'Buy American' efforts

'American Made Movie,' screening in Baltimore, part of renewed focus on purchasing U.S. products

By Jamie Smith Hopkins, The Baltimore Sun

6:57 PM EDT, July 29, 2013

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A new manufacturing documentary that will get an advance screening in Baltimore this week suggests that average Americans aren't powerless to stop job loss in the sector.

It's a simple and surprisingly old message that has seen a resurgence since the rough recession: Buy American.

The independent filmmakers behind "American Made Movie" — being released Aug. 30 — say they're not protectionists and are happy to hear about foreign-owned manufacturers with factories in this country. Their main point is just that consumers can make a difference by making an effort to buy products produced domestically.

"It's simple economics, right?" said Vincent Vittorio, who directed the movie with Nathaniel Thomas McGill. "Supply and demand. If we demand more, there will be more supply."

"Buy American" — or, at least, "Don't buy from those other guys" — is older than the country itself. The First Continental Congress called in 1774 to stop importing products from Britain.

Later, efforts to mandate or encourage American-made purchases flared during difficult economic times. The Depression inspired the Buy American Act, requiring the federal government to purchase U.S.-made goods when possible. Concerns about Japanese cars and other imports in the 1970s prompted Buy American campaigns from manufacturing unions.

The aftermath of the Great Recession also is proving fertile for such sentiments. Another independent film out this year — "Made in the USA: The 30-Day Journey" — follows a man trying to live on only American-made products for a month, including such basics as shower stalls.

The leaders of Made in USA Certified Inc., a Florida company that verifies where products are made, said they have been asked to certify more than 3,500 items since starting about five years ago.

Market-research firm Harris Interactive said in March that seven in 10 Americans it surveyed said it was "important" or "very important" to buy American appliances, furniture, clothing and automobiles.

The "American Made Movie" directors, who say they received no funding from the manufacturing industry, are in the midst of a 32-day, 32-city bus tour. Baltimore will be No. 27, with a screening 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Charles Theatre. A discussion will follow.

Baltimore knows about manufacturing retrenchment, having lost two-thirds of its manufacturing base in the last 20 years. Last year, more than 2,000 people were put out of work by the closing of the Sparrows Point steel mill in Baltimore County.

Vittorio said he knows the domestic and global economies are far different than they were when American manufacturing was at its height. But he thinks people shouldn't discount the inherent potential in buying choices.

"We're all consumers, from single moms to Grandma to the small-business owner," he said. "We all have this power."

jhopkins@baltsun.com

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