Manufacture This

The blog of the Alliance for American Manufacturing

... what if you could easily search all of them for US-made products?

Say you sit down at your computer, open up an Internet browser, and resolve to find yourself an American-made product.

To what website will you go?

If your first response was “The Alliance for American Manufacturing,” then … thank you. We’re flattered. AAM’s blog is great, you feature cool stuff, you’ve got great taste. We get it.

You shouldn’t come here, though. The Internet is vast. And we’re only a corner of it. If you really want to find stuff made in the America, try searching with 3.7.

3.7 (that’s “Three Point Seven”) is a search engine that does exactly what it sounds like: It scours the web for American-made products, connecting businesses to businesses to shoppers. The marketing agency behind it — so-named because there are 3.7 million square miles in the United States — recently launched, and it aims to promote American-made products and companies.

“When we thought about starting a company, we looked a lot of web pages, and many were focused on selling stuff themselves,” says Suzie Sommer, 3.7’s president.

Sommer got her start in marketing and sales in the hospitality industry. It was there where she noticed a trend in her clients’ purchasing habits.

“Repeatedly, the big hotels I worked with would say, ‘we’d love to buy U.S., but it’s just not available,’” she said. “For years, the company I worked for couldn’t get textiles very easily in the U.S., and if we did find them, they weren’t competitively priced.

“That was always something that was in the back of my head.”

Years later, when she joined with Andy Bury – who serves as 3.7’s CEO –  to form a marketing firm that would essentially mine the American-made niche, she thought they would start small.

“I thought we were just going to start something that focused on what was available in hospitality, and after a meeting with an old client – who represented Safeway grocery stores – he said, ‘wow, why would you ever limit that? Why not just make the entire country available?’

“And at first, I thought that was too big of a goal.”

We liked the idea of being more of a marketing group that raised awareness and found another way to make our income. Suzie Sommer

There is, however, a sprawling ecosystem of American makers out there. And, based upon feedback from business contact and according to 3.7’s internal research — the average consumer is willing to spend approximately 25 percent more than average on an American-made product — the idea grew.

“We liked the idea of being more of a marketing group that raised awareness and found another way to make our income,” Sommer said. “And as much as a heady goal that it was — and believe me, we met with about 14 companies before we found someone who could do it for us — we wanted to create a search engine for American companies.”

They got one. The front-end of 3.7’s homepage features a keyword-search engine that dips into a pool of 1.8 million made-in-America companies — everything from automobiles to foodstuffs — and has developed a process by which a company can earn a “3.7 certified” label (displayed next to their name in the search results) if it verifies it manufactures 85 percent of its products stateside.

The search engine (usable now, but always being improved upon) will soon allow users to view companies that have taken the “3.7 pledge” – by which companies agree to increase their volume of American-made products by 10 percent within a year.

This isn’t the only feature of 3.7. Remember, it’s not just consumers who can use this site – businesses do purchasing, too, and they’re well aware that cache comes with buying American. As such, the firm offers a Request for Proposal program to bring buyers and vendors together.

It’s also planning a series of “American Weeks,” a quarterly magazine featuring different companies in the American-made movement, and is exploring the idea of a TV show that would do the same. A cable network you've heard of is interested.

Sommer and Bury clearly think there’s a lot of commercial potential in promoting American-made products. But it’s more than just business.

“I can’t say how many women I have heard say, ‘I only wear Italian shoes.’ And I mean, wow. Do you know of the shoes we’re making in this country? Just unbelievably beautiful, handmade shoes,” marveled Sommer. “These people are focused on the craftsmanship of Made in Italy, and yet, Italian immigrants came to this country with those trades. They’ve still got the quality; they’re just making them here.”

But, Bury noted, it's more than just business.

“People don’t often think about this, but if I buy an American product, not only does it make me feel good — or that I can advertise that I’ve done so — but that purchase helps the workers who made it, and all of the small businesses in their community,” he said. “It gets more money circulating in the middle class of this country, which is the engine that drives our economy.”