And while you’re at it, Buy Northwest Indiana.
The recent Great Recession has revealed the strong impact the global economy has on the United States, and more specifically our region’s economy. Within the past five years, many companies within the office-products industry have increased their private-label brand items that are primarily manufactured outside the United States. National chains such as Staples, Office Max, Office Depot and Quill continue to add these items manufactured abroad, with their name branded on the item or box. Using price as the key advantage, they sustain their reputation as the low-cost leaders in the industry. However, this practice has had a major influence on companies maintaining manufacturing in the United States.
Business owners, executives and managers need to become more informed and aware of how purchasing from companies such as these impacts our local and national economy. My examples here focus on office products because that’s the business I know best, but the principle holds true across many industries.
Office-supply purchases typically represent a mere fraction (on average 1 to 2 percent) of the organization’s expenditures. But the time it takes to pick a product, shop for price comparisons and place the order can represent a good portion of the overall cost. Ultimately, your bottom line will not be that adversely affected by saving time and procuring your products from a consistent business that offers more American-made products than competitors do.
Many products such as binders, binder clips, paperclips, staples, chairs, files and desks contain a component of the major industry of Northwest Indiana: steel. Numerous jobs and ancillary businesses are dependent on the success of our steel mills. Now some could speculate about how much buying paperclips and ring binders can actually influence our local steel mills. But, there are more than 6,000 businesses and organizations in Northwest Indiana that consume office products, not including home offices. If these businesses buy their products from national chains, based on price alone, they are more likely to be supporting another nation’s economy. On this larger scale, it is easier to see that this practice can have a negative impact on our neighbors, community and region.
In 2009, our company launched a “Buy Local and Give Local” campaign. This program shines a spotlight on the charitable organizations that have a positive effect on the members of our community. We highlight one or two of these organizations a month. Throughout the chosen month we work with each group to hand out literature explaining the group’s mission, promote upcoming events through our website and make a contribution to emphasize the organization’s importance to the area. We can make a difference in the lives of the people who live and work in Northwest Indiana. Studies have proven that money spent with a local company will circulate seven times more than purchases made with a national chain. A local company is more likely to spend on operations and profits with local entities and labor.
In addition, we have recently implemented a “Made in the U.S.A.” initiative to create awareness that alternatives do exist for those who are trying to buy more American-made office products. We belong to the largest independent office-product buying group, and have leveraged buying power so the prices on these products can be very competitive. The decisions we make directly affect our local and national economy. Knowledge is power, so the more informed the decision-makers of office products become, the greater the chances of bringing about a change for the better. We understand that it is not feasible to expect an office to completely run on American-made products; however if more attention can be placed on buying local and buying American with each purchase, then consumers can lend a proactive hand to making a positive change.
Brian McShane is president and CEO of McShane’s Inc. He has 35 years experience in office-products industry.