The firework smoke has cleared. The apple pie has been eaten. And, for the first time in a long time, many of us will look back on our 4th of July weekend as a milestone in which a sense of normalcy was present.
Yet, as we close the door on America’s 245th birthday, we couldn’t help but notice that this year’s celebration felt different. And it felt different for good reasons. Americans are emerging from Covid-19 with new norms, new appreciations, and new philosophies on how we operate in a post-pandemic world. We’re more thoughtful in our approaches. And we’re more focused on value. Value in our partnerships, value in our work, and value in the goods we consume.
Over the past eighteen months, U.S. consumers have adopted a much more conscious approach to shopping, demanding transparency and authenticity from the brands they buy. In response, companies have begun to reevaluate their practices and audit their supply chains. And in an effort to mitigate some of the challenges and risks often linked to long and dynamic supply chains — which were made obvious during the pandemic — several of those companies have turned their gaze back to U.S. shorelines. Reshoring isn’t new for the U.S. An increased investment in domestic manufacturing has taken shape over the past several years. But the Covid-19 pandemic — and the need for personal protective equipment (PPE) — catapulted this trend into new territory. Take for example, America Knits, which was founded in 2019 to manufacture high-quality, Made in America apparel. Just a few months later, with the support of SPESA member Eastman Machine Company, the company had converted its operations to PPE, and has since produced 1.5 million masks and gowns for the U.S. government and millions more for hospitals, assisted living sites, and universities across the country.
In another part of the country, Merrow Manufacturing, sister company of SPESA member Merrow Sewing Machine Company, formed a new medical division and has swiftly become the largest producer of U.S.-sourced PPE, from fiber through to sewing. The pandemic not only inspired companies to pivot production to PPE, but also to band together and form new alliances and coalitions promoting the Made in America movement. While SPESA has always maintained a position that supports the global marketplace, we also see the benefits of American-made production. Just recently, SPESA signed on to several letters as part of an industry coalition that promotes the domestic sewn products industrial base. Specifically, this coalition is focused on supporting legislation and policy initiatives that would ensure the federal government supports American companies through improving PPE procurement practices. The U.S. government has showcased its commitment to the Made in America movement through both proposed legislation and presidential promises. President Biden’s American Jobs Plan outlines a desire to revitalize manufacturing, secure U.S. supply chains, invest in research and development, and train Americans for the jobs of the future. “President Biden’s plan will ensure that the best, diverse minds in America are put to work creating the innovations of the future while creating hundreds of thousands of quality jobs today. Our workers will build and make things in every part of America, and they will be trained for well-paying, middle-class jobs.” We talk a lot about the benefits of domestic manufacturing. But we also understand that challenges exist as well: shipping delays, infrastructure shortfalls, a lack of trained workers, and the inability to compete with foreign labor prices, to name a few. The topic is broad and complicated, but it’s one that is important to us. That’s why this month’s Behind the Seams will focus on just that: Made in America. We’ll cover stories about domestic manufacturing and how the sewn products industry fits into this nationwide movement. In the spirit of Independence Day, we’d like to leave you with a quote from Harry Truman: "America was not built on fear. America was built on courage, on imagination and an unbeatable determination to do the job at hand."