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Image via Pixabay
Image via Pixabay

A Queens congresswoman wants to help inform the public about American-made products — but some business owners in Ridgewood and Glendale aren’t sure about her proposed solution.

Congresswoman Grace Meng introduced legislation on Feb. 7 titled the “MadeInAmerica.gov Act,” which would create the first-ever U.S. government website for consumers to find information about products that are made in America. If passed into law, the act would require the United States Department of Commerce to create and maintain a MadeInAmerica.gov website within two years of the enactment.

“It is time that the federal government did more for American businesses and American workers,” Meng said. “Consumers who wish to know which products are made in America should have a trustworthy, easy-to-use resource, and American businesses should be provided a space in which they can easily connect consumers to products that are made in America. This legislation will promote products made in the USA, support the labor behind them, and encourage people to buy American.”

Although the nationwide number of manufacturing jobs in America has increased slightly since 2010, that number has continued to decline in New York City. While there were more than 265,000 manufacturing jobs in the city in 1990, there are fewer than 75,000 today, according to the New York State Department of Labor. One local manufacturer, who runs the business his father started in 1943, said that number was higher than 800,000 during the 1960s.

Vernon McDermott is the owner of McDermott Light & Signal in Ridgewood, a marine navigation light manufacturer that was founded by his father, Julian A. McDermott.

When asked what he thought about an online database to keep track of American-made products, McDermott said that “manufacturing is history now for this city.” 

The main challenge for McDermott, whose primary competitors are from different states, is the rapid increase in minimum wage, he said.

“Raising minimum wage is a fine idea if the business is done in the city,” McDermott said. “But my biggest competitor is in Florida, and they pay $8 an hour.”

McDermott’s budget is much tighter as a small manufacturer who has to pay his employees more every year. He was frank in saying that he didn’t think creating a website would help turn the tide, adding, “If they’ll spend any amount of money on it, I’d say no.”

Another local manufacturer also pointed to employee wages when asked about Meng’s legislation, but on a much larger scale. Richie Huber, an engineer for Superior Interlock in Glendale, said that in a global market it’s nearly impossible for New York companies paying $15 per hour to compete with companies across the world that pay less than $1 per hour.

Superior Interlock was founded in 1946 and creates specialized key-interlocking mechanisms for industrial equipment. Since their product is so specialized, Huber said, they often compete with international companies. On the Superior Interlock Website, there is a logo with an American flag that says “Proudly Made in the U.S.A.”

I do, at times, have difficulty trying to find a source of origin of a product,” Huber said about Meng’s legislation. “I try to support domestically made products and source as much of our components domestically as we can.”

According to a U.S. Census Bureau survey, the total number of manufacturing jobs in Queens in 2016 was 45,796. When it comes to having a real impact on American-made goods, however, Community Board 5 district manager Gary Giordano expressed how difficult it would be to change consumer habits.

Too many people are looking for the cheapest product they can get,” Giordano said. “We would need an unwritten agreement that if we want to make more here in America we’ll have to pay more and buy less, but it will be better quality.”

Meng’s bill has been referred to the House Energy and Commerce Committee where it is awaiting further action.

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