You check the product label and nod with approval when you see “Made in the USA.” Often this is the clincher in your decision-making when buying something new. As consumers in America, …
You check the product label and nod with approval when you see “Made in the USA.” Often this is the clincher in your decision-making when buying something new. As consumers in America, we’re famously (and understandably) proud to use American-made products.
But what does it mean for the manufacturers building those products? American pride is certainly a factor, as is the practicality of keeping operations “close to home,” but the impact on the people in our communities should be the driving force. The positive outcomes of U.S. manufacturing reverberate throughout the nation and our people. It helps our economy thrive. According to the National Association of Manufacturers in 2019, manufacturers in the United States accounted for 11.39% of the total output in the economy, employing 8.51% of the workforce.
From my viewpoint as an industrial designer at Igloo Products Corp for many years, I witness the impact of American manufacturing every day. Igloo makes its ice chests—from concept and engineering to the assembly line and distribution—in the greater Houston area, where the company has been firmly planted since 1947. We currently employ more than 800 people in manufacturing positions. 800 just in our plant alone!
In the last 18 months, the demand for Igloo coolers has increased exponentially. These days, amid the various travel restrictions and pandemic uncertainty, Americans are venturing outside more often to pursue new and longstanding recreational activities—and taking a cooler along is essential. Being able to assemble our key products here in the U.S., right near our consumers, means we get what they want into their hands quickly, while we circumvent the challenges of offshoring critical production, like the ongoing supply chain disruptions, port congestion, increased tariffs and more.
As Igloo expands our distribution channels with various retail partners, like Walmart (a company that is actively supporting the future of U.S. manufacturing to create more American jobs), we’re creating new positions and hiring more workers from all sorts of backgrounds to get ahead of the demand. I’m seeing this firsthand in our facility by talking with our employees. Walking through our plant, I see the young father who just entered the workforce for the first time to support his family. I see the assembly lead, with decades of experience under her belt, approaching retirement, but giving it her all until that day arrives. These are the people who have a hand in making America a global economic leader.
Additionally, the opportunities for innovation in America, and the great minds of the people who innovate, are endless. Innovation helps power our country—it’s part of what makes America so great. In a Washington Post short film about closing the innovation deficit, it is explained that “America’s economy has been built on innovation and new ideas that create jobs and healthy communities.” And that “more than half our country’s economic growth in recent decades has been thanks to innovation.”
Ever since Igloo crafted the first metal water cooler in Houston those 74 years ago, the company has continuously changed the industry through its innovations. The company was instrumental in redefining how we live, work and play. Igloo invented the first plastic cooler, the first cooler with wheels, the first truly portable lunchbox—our world-famous trademarked Playmate cooler—the first biodegradable cooler and the first hardside cooler made with recycled resin. All made possible by your and my neighbors who happen to be some of the smartest people in the world.
American manufacturers, like Igloo, give the working class of the USA a chance to pursue a longstanding career. The opportunity to grow, learn and innovate while contributing to making the U.S. the leading global economic power. We are all better because of it.
So, hold onto that innate pride when buying that product with the “Made in the USA” label, folks. But hold on even tighter to the fact that you’ve made a positive, life-changing impact on our communities far and wide.
John Maldonado is the head of industrial product design at Igloo Products Corp. in Katy, Texas.
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