OIA Made in America Working Group Begins to Shape Agenda

February 6, 2013

Outdoor Industry Association® (OIA) hosted a listening session during Outdoor Retailer Winter Market last month to gather input for its new Made in America Working Group, which will explore what OIA can do to help outdoor industry companies manufacture or source more products and/or components domestically.

Approximately 30 people representing about 20 companies that either already manufacture in the United States, or are considering it, gathered to discuss the challenges and opportunities of being a domestic manufacturer. Of the companies that attended the session, approximately half manufacture in the United States and source more than 50 percent of their inputs from the United States.

Among those present were:

  • A hardgoods company that manufactures most of its products in the United States,
  • A footwear company that manufactures some product domestically,
  • A company that assembles footwear domestically using imported components,
  • An apparel startup that has been unable to source a certain type of nylon domestically, and
  • A multi-category outdoor brand in the early stages of evaluating the costs and benefits of shifting apparel production back to the United States from China.

While there was a great diversity of opinion on some issues, the discussion helped shape a potential agenda for the working group, including:

Create a domestic sourcing directory. There is a lack of reliable information on where outdoor companies can find domestic sources of certain raw materials, components and manufacturing services. This makes it difficult to assess the costs and benefits of moving production back to the United States and may also discourage foreign investment in U.S. manufacturing plants. One company said it had to cancel the launch of a 100 percent “Made in USA” product when one domestic vendor abandoned the project at the last minute because it was unable to find enough U.S. customers to make the business profitable.

Address tariff inversion. It can be cheaper to import finished product than to import components and assemble them in the United States. Several companies urged OIA to investigate tariff reforms that could address this obstacle to creating U.S. jobs.

Press the Federal Trade Commission for more clarity on Made in USA labeling rules. It is very difficult to get rulings from the Federal Trade Commission on whether a specific product meets the criteria to be labeled as “Made in USA.” Moreover, some companies are skirting FTC rules by placing American flags on their labels or making other implied claims of U.S. origin, putting other companies at a disadvantage. OIA may be able to help member companies by advocating for more transparency and consistency to FTC rulings.

Support favorable tax policies and other financial incentives. Bringing manufacturing of some products back to the United States will require substantial investments to rebuild the domestic supply chain. OIA should consider supporting tax policies and other federal policies that incentivize such investments.

Education. There are many misconceptions about how to manufacture products competitively in the United States. OIA should consider reaching out to academia and other partners to help educate members about how to engineer products from the ground up in order to be able to manufacture them competitively in the United States.

The OIA Made in America Working Group is still in the early stages of recruiting members and establishing its agenda. Under the structure established under the newly formed OIA Business Advisory Council (OIABAC), the working group will pass its findings to the OIA Trade Advisory Council, which will make recommendations to the OIA Board of Directors. Those interested in joining the working group should email Alex Boian, OIA’s senior director of government affairs.