As I reviewed our personal financial portfolio at the end of 2010, I noticed we got a nice bump to our net worth, gains from the stock market. On the other hand, it was another tough year for our small sustainable printed apparel company in North Carolina. A company that has transitioned to over 80% domestically made t-shirts with 50% of those made in North Carolina. Yes, our t-shirts cost more, but these shirts are made here, and we use cotton grown here. The nightly news and the speeches coming from Washington are about creating jobs. One reason that the stock market is doing better is a lot of these corporations are involved in the global marketplace in either their manufacturing or sourcing of their raw components or outsourcing services overseas. Part of our philosophy at TS Designs is “if you go outside of your community to source a product or service that your community could provide then it is not sustainable.” We have to start taking responsibility for the things we buy or the services we use beyond just the price if we want to create jobs in this country. Corporations have one job, to maximize their short-term profits, and that is how their stock is valued and bonuses are determined. We can determine where and how a company sources their products by our decision in what we purchase.
A good example that I have some history with is Nike. Nike is a very successful and profitable company in which Wall Street rewards them, but at what expense? TS Designs at one time was one of three US suppliers of Nike printed t-shirts. Nike before NAFTA made most of their t-shirts in the US southern states. Their stock gained over 30% in 2010. Nike makes very little if anything in this country while consumers continue to be a big buyer of Nike’s products. Out of balance? This is true for about all the major apparel brands, they do not make it here. Take a look at what you are wearing. Apparel companies make most of their products overseas because it is CHEAPER, and it makes their balance sheet look better. I am sure these apparel companies would make some products in the US, if we told them we were going to stop buying their overseas products.
I hear the argument that we are creating jobs in poor countries and pulling people out of poverty. We need to help that 50% of the world that makes under $2 a day, but it is not by using their cheap labor to benefit us. We need to help them build their own sustainable communities.
North Carolina moved to the third largest grower of cotton in 2010 in the US, but most of that cotton is shipped overseas so we can buy our jeans cheaper. NAFTA has put over 35,000 people out of a job in North Carolina. Does it not make sense to give people we want to buy jeans a job making those jeans in the US?
As our President and elected officials say that their number one priority is to create new jobs, we can do our part. Start being aware where your purchases come from, and secondly, start supporting companies that make their products in the US.
We vote with our dollar, let’s start making that dollar count.