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One of the best slogans ever created by a retail chain was penned by BJ’s Wholesale Club a few years ago and it went like this: “When you buy something, you’re doing more than just making a purchase. You’re making an investment.”

If we’ve learned anything by watching the stock market and the larger economy over the past few years, it’s that we need to be a little more diverse in our investments when we make them. It follows then that if making a consumer purchase is also making an investment, it might do us some good as consumers and the economy as well to be a little more diverse in our consumer purchases too. I’m not necessarily talking about avoiding spending all of our dollars at Wal-Mart even though that would be a good start. I’m talking about looking at all the American-made options before us when we decide it’s time to go shopping.

I’ve often spoken in the past of supporting smaller, privately owned American companies that make things in the USA as opposed to the larger, publicly owned American companies that make things in the USA. Smaller companies often don’t have the “corporate horsepower,” if you will, to get into a big box store where they might more easily gain name brand recognition. Just because Wal-Mart and Target don’t carry certain items on their shelves doesn’t mean there aren’t other quality products out there. And since about 85 percent of all products sold at Wal-Mart are imported, a lot of quality American-made options are being overlooked by consumers who shop there because they don’t even know other alternatives exist.

One American-made alternative that should not be overlooked is the Staber washing machine. Staber Industries has been family owned and operated since 1976 when they began re-manufacturing laundry equipment from American manufacturers like GE, Maytag and Whirlpool. I’m sure you’ve seen the newer front load tumble action washers from these and other manufacturers, but Staber has the distinction of being the only top load tumble action washer on the market. And Staber washers have been produced in Groveport, Ohio, since 1993.

Staber Dryers do contain some imported parts and cannot properly be labeled “Made in USA” but you might want to look at the unique Staber Drying Cabinet which is made in America. A drying cabinet works like an accelerated clothesline and is commonly used in Scandinavian countries. And since Staber’s drying cabinet uses a 1,500 watt heating element vs. a 4,000 watt heating element for standard tumble dryers, you’ll use less energy per standard load. Since there is no wear and tear for drying cabinets like there are for tumble dryers, drying cabinets are bound to last longer as well.

If you would like to stay with a larger, more familiar American manufacturer for your washer and dryer, I would strongly suggest American-owned Whirlpool, which thankfully outbid Chinese-owned Haier in June 2005 for American-owned Maytag. Whirlpool is a company that has some of its production overseas just like all the other appliance brands. However, on May 18, 2004, it announced that close to $100 million would go towards the company’s U.S. facilities. Clearly it is better that Maytag was acquired by U.S.-based Whirlpool than Chinese-owned Haier. Even though Haier does produce some of their models in the United States, we still would be sending our American dollars to China by buying them.

Whirlpool’s $100 million American investment included a new generation of Ohio-made washers and dryers, a new line of Ohio-made dishwashers, new production lines for refrigerators at plants in Arkansas, Indiana, and Tennessee and cooking products at a Tulsa, Okla., plant.

Supporting American-owned companies big or small keeps them profitable so that any of our home companies that come under financial stress can be acquired by another American company rather than a foreign-owned company – or better yet, they don’t become vulnerable at all. Supporting American companies means funneling financial resources into a company that is much more likely to reinvest in existing American factories like Whirlpool did, which is better than supporting foreign-owned companies that will oftentimes strive to acquire existing American-owned factories. The end result of that scenario? A greater share of the American pie would be in danger of being transferred overseas.

Buying American is all about making choices, and we need to be aware of as many American choices as possible if we hope to continue to prosper America by making sure we keep our money right here at home where it should be.

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