Why Not Keep Some Money in Your Own Backyard?

Darren Gapen is president of D.G. Print Solutions, a consulting firm based in Woodstock, GA, that supports printing companies of all sizes.

How many of the gifts that you will buy for your loved ones this Christmas will be made here in the United States? How many of you will actually take the time to look on the package to see where the product was made?

Many holiday participants are unaware that the North Pole has moved. Santa’s gift bag and sleigh now get filled overseas. The elves are not little ageless men and women; many are underage children working for next to nothing. Christmas in America is a multi-billion-dollar business for China.

If the product itself was not made here, who do you think printed the folding carton that encases the item or the instruction pamphlet and warranty card inside the box? I highly doubt that we printed the packaging, assembled and shipped the merchandise here within the United States.

It’s ironic that if you look on the Forbes “Richest People in America” list, four out of the top 11 billionaires all have the same last name as the founder of the largest retail store in America. The same person who wrote a book titled “Made In America.” I’m sure that we have all shopped at his family’s store, but how many of the products on the shelves are actually “Made In America?”

Like many of the other retailers, its motto is sell cheap, lots of it and more profit for the company. Unfortunately, that motto doesn’t seem to work in the printing business. Many printers look to sell cheap, because if you don’t, your competitor will. This way of thinking usually results in little or no profit margin involved!

Growing up in a union environment and working for a union printing company years ago helped me realize and understand the importance of supporting the great people and country that we live in. I have always bought American-made cars and many other products throughout my life and have instilled that philosophy into my three daughters as well. Obviously, I haven’t single handedly saved Detroit, but if we don’t support are own country through these tough times more than ever; who will?

Darren has worked in the printing industry for 30 years and spent more than 12 years at two of the nation's leading high-end commercial printers: Bradley Printing in Des Plaines, IL, and Williamson Printing Corp. in Dallas, TX. During that time, he operated conventional and UV 40˝ sheetfed presses and also successfully managed a $15-million pressroom equipment transition. Darren also was Lead Press Instructor for Heidelberg, where he directed specialty equipment startups and was involved in all aspects of the printing process by teaching both instructor and pressroom employees.

In addition, he served as a troubleshooter for various printing companies in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. As operations manager for a start-up specialty folding carton company, he played a key role in achieving more than $6 million in sales within two years. Currently Darren is president of D.G. Print Solutions, a consulting firm that supports printing companies of all sizes. He specializes in growth development planning, pressroom color management and pressroom training through specialty print applications.

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  • Guest

    I agree completely — I have always tried to "buy American" — have never shopped at that big store that starts with "W" — but there are few choices left now. Almost the only American-made products left seem to be craft items from the local craft fair!

  • George Dick


    You should stick to printing, because you don’t understand economics and the benefits to people both overseas and in the USA of foreign trade. Taking your argument to it’s logical conclusion, you should buy everything made in Georgia, or better yet, your hometown to insure full employment of your neighbors. Heck, why not just keep it under one roof in your own household? Your wife and kids would always be busy!

    The money saved by buying overseas products can be used to purchase more products everywhere leading to greater wealth and employment for all. Please read Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith.

    Finally, do workers overseas (or in Kentucky) deserve a job? Or do their lives have less value than Americans ( or Georgians) because they have funny shaped eyes or different color skin or speak with a weird accent?

    George Dick
    Four Colour Print Group
    Four Colour

  • beagle501

    There was a show on TV recently where they had families remove everything from their home that was not made in America. People were amazed when they realized how few items they use are made in America.
    I don’t believe we should isolate ourselves from the rest of the world. I think our lives are enriched when we experience and support other cultures, but we are at point in our economy where we need to figure out how to put all of these people back to work. I believe we have been exporting our middle class, and you don’t have to look far to see, i.e. Mexico, what happens when a society does not have a middle class large enough to keep the economy growing.
    Bill Eagle
    Acme Appraisals

  • Paul

    "Every family spending $64.00 on something made in America will save 200,000 jobs". Are you kidding?? How many restaurant jobs will be lost if every family goes out to eat one less time this holiday season because they spent their money on something they could have purchased for less if it were made overseas?

    After 32 years of always owning American vehicles, I purchased a used Toyota last month – best car I ever owned.

    If you are concerned about saving American jobs, you should start by petitioning all levels of government to deregulate. You should oppose the environmentalist nut cases that work to prevent us from drilling for our own natural resources. You should talk to your Congressman about eliminating the minimum wage – oops! Automatic raises in your union contract are probably tied to minimum wage increases. You should talk you President into rethinking his healthcare legislation, which is doing more to destroy our economy than anything else. My printing business has been very busy, but I’m not hiring any new employees until I know what the rules are going to be. Where does it end? How much government is too much? Who is John Galt?

  • political junkie

    There are corporate practices called dumping and its not just related to the steel industry. The japanese sell cars in the usa cheaper than their own country.

    Paper and printed products are also under pressure from price only thinkers. The purpose of this dumping practice is to drive companies out of business. When that happens the price of these products will be going up and the choices of where to buy them is less.

    I think the middle class of this country is paying the price for bringing the rest of the world out of poverty. The saying its a recession when your neihbor loses his job and a depression when you lose yours is true.

    We are an economy of consuption. When we no longer have the power to purchase then we will suffer the reallity of is happening now. Having a strong middle class supports the rich more than most think.

    For those who think the government is the cause they are right. We spend more then we take in. So lets cut our taxes even more and spend more on our military.

    Take your emotions out from a dark place and look around at what is really happening. Dont get your facts from the TV pundits.

  • Michelle L. Bracali

    Hmm…I liked your article very much. Spent about $250 on locally produced goods this holiday season. Maybe I paid a little more for those items, but maybe I didn’t. That’s a bit immaterial considering that a lot of the purchases I make in general are based on perception. (All of us do so at one time or another.)

    Here are but two examples – designer purses and name brand electronics. For instance, I know a lot of women who carry expensive purses, (even though a cheap one from Target would work just as well), because it makes them feel good. Buying locally made or American made goods makes me feel good.

    It’s a good feeling to know I’m supporting my fellow Americans. I don’t believe in protectionism and really enjoy overseas travel, which I’ve done extensively. I have purchased things from all corners of the earth. However, I also make it a point to purchase things from my own backyard as well.

    Let’s face it. If our neighbors and local communities don’t do well it’s hard for us to do well. Sometimes I might pay more for American made items but most of the time I don’t. And even if I do overpay every once in a while, so what? I’d rather pay a little more every once in a while than have that money taken away from me in the form of greater entitlement programs because our manufacturing base continues to flow overseas and more people here are impoverished.

  • Mike

    Interesting range of opinions however I do agree with Darren. Maybe it is because I am a proud American that I go out of my way to purchase USA made products. Maybe because I am from Michigan where I have seen first hand the devastating loss of manufacturing jobs to overseas suppliers. Or simply it could just be that I have 4 young children whose future is very questionable with the current economic climate. I will continue to purchase USA made paper, plates and ink for my company and will always spend more for a quality USA made product than the sub standard disposable Chinese version.

  • Ken

    Darren…I liked your article because I completely agree! I understand and believe in the positive domino effects of buying locally. I mean right down to “my town” local. And yes, given the choice I have a preference for my neighbors and fellow Americans having jobs. I support my local barbers, car shops, retail shops and restaurants by buying and giving their gift certificates for Christmas. In doing so, I help promote their success and support my local economy. As my neighbor’s businesses thrive and grow, they in-turn buy printing (collectively…lots of printing) as well as many other local services. They also pay taxes and help lighten that burden. There is no downside to buying local.

  • Linda

    Thanks for your article Darren – I agree with the point you are making. The closer we can keep our purchases to our home or business, the better off we will be. As Ken said – there is no downside to buying local!

  • Born in the USA

    Darren, I commend you for having the drive and aspiration to say what many of us are thinking but afraid to admit to the world.

    You are absolutely correct when you publicize the fact that if we don’t protect our own then who will. More and more Americans need to stand up and support the country that we were born and raised in, regardless of their personal circumstances.

    @George Dick. Obviously by your comments, you are on the defense side to this entire article. Is it because you are partnered with a printing company in China and that’s where the majority of your income is generated, or that your tied to one of the most low quality, overpriced, yearbook manufacturers in the country or just because you are giving your printing services away for next to nothing? Wake up! You need to realize that you are a poor example of what this country has become.

    Buy American, Support America and be proud of it!!!!

  • I am the 5%-Venture Capitalist

    Darren-thank you for another great semi-annual blog posting. For full disclosure I consider Darren a good friend and close advisor to my firm’s portfolio investment—I confidently can say he is an expert in UV and everything surrounding it. So, here I come to cautiously agree with you and bash people’s comments. Actually I just want to post a comment, I am bored. (If I may use one of your Georgia peach crates as my soapbox.)

    When I first read your post I thought something must have irked your pachyderm beliefs to have you post this particular blog. Maybe you are jazzed up that your great state of Georgia spawned two polar opposite candidates, a pizza loving loser and a multi-affair-divorcé. Or, maybe Larry Craig tapped his foot under your bathroom stall while you had a layover in the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport. Either way, this blog has brought out some amusing comments within your cloche. It is like you poured Tea on the pristine neo-con cloth.

    Three phenomenal comments were posted. The first post gave a shout out to Adam Smith then immediately states we outsource to people with, “funny shaped eyes…” Of course he assumes all goods are only made in countries that are not Western Anglo (white). Granted he must know that the majority of furniture comes from the Balkans. Is it PC to use the term Balkan anymore? Does not matter, the EU will change the region’s name during their meltdown. The second post calls for a middle class export tariff. Now I hope his boy Frank Luntz does not read his comment because Luntz has expressly instructed neo-cons to stop using the term middle class, jobs, capitalism, rich, etc. in their vocabulary. The third post calls for deregulation, less government, then wraps up with asking John Galt to please stand up. Yes he referenced John Galt—a person or metaphor, I am not that smart to know the answer.

    Why do I isolate these comments? Because they make reference to books as thick as the King James Bible but never use it to support their point. I will save you the Google time. The Wealth of Nations was published in 1770-something and is north of 1,000 pages. John Galt is a character in Ayn Rand’s final and most lengthy novel, Atlas Shrugged. Atlas Shrugged is so long and complex that Cliff’s Notes are over 100 pages long. I bet a $1 coin that they never read the books cover-to-cover and are just name dropping. Back to my point, I can confidently ascertain from their comments that the three wise men are free-market entrepreneurs; a more modern term would be Friedman (Nobel aureate) Supply Siders. I too once naively believed that a deregulated, free market would lead to a nation of eternal wealth, prosperity and peace. Take a look at what the repeal of Glass-Steagall (deregulation of the banking industry) and abated taxes on real estate greater than $500,000 resulted in. Instead of streets lined with gold, they are littered with papers with acronyms of financial instruments (CDO, CDS, etc.) that even the smartest people in the world cannot figure out the exposure. The current US Depression and world financial crisis is a direct result of our basic human desire to consume beyond our means when left deregulated—statement of fact. I agree that there are government policies that stifled our growth but none has caused such global financial chaos as the aforementioned.

    In closing, you are all in a weird way saying the same thing. No matter whom you chose to purchase from, 100% of the time it will be connected to some American business or entity. Now go hug it out.

  • RDK

    Interesting blog Darren ! You have hit many good points as well as many nerves. Definitely entertaining to read what others think. I agree but disagree. Considering my upbringing I should be a "Union Card Carrying Member". But hence I have found that my own voice and hard work is much louder than any executive in a boardroom negotiating my pay or benefits. Or at least my ability to move onto the next company which will recognize my abilities and give me the pay and benies that I deserve.

    I felt a tingle of comradery reading your article. Similar to how I felt on the days that followed after the 911 tragedy. That closeness we all feel as Americans when we experience a national tragedy. I do as we all do want to see our fellow Americans working. To walk through the isles of retail stores with our carts full and smiling faces everywhere. But this doesn’t seem to be the case these days. Millions of people are looking for work or have given up altogether. Retail stores are breaking record sales numbers but its all on the backs of the middle class that still dream that they will again prosper. People are getting trampled over by their fellow Americans to save $100 on a TV that will be less than the sale in 6 months from the tragic death of that fellow American. What has this world come to. I am guilty no more and no less than the next guy/girl for buying a product based on it’s price and not considering the origin of manufacture. I will this season buy something that was made in America by my fellow Americans unodoubtedly. But I will without guilt buy many things that were made in another country. I have some comfort believing that the workers in another country that did manufacture some of the prodcuts that I will purchase will live a little better life with my purchase.

    In the end we live in a global environment that we all should be thankful for. Can you imagine the poverty levels that might exist had there not been such an economy? I applaud you for working hard and succeeding. Being able to write this blog and comment without the censorship of our government is as well something we should all be thankful for.

    Happy Holidays !!!!!

  • Matt

    I thought this was a very thought-provoking article. We, as consumers, rarely check to see where the products we’re buying were made. This doesn’t seem to be too much to ask. I constantly hear complaints about companies sending jobs overseas, and there isn’t much we, as the general public can do about it. The strongest protest we can mount is where we spend our money. The idea Darren proposes is wholly American. It crosses state, professional, and even class lines. Given two products, choose the one made in America, even IF it is a couple dollars more expensive. That way you are supporting jobs here, instead of overseas.

    To those of you that have posted negative comments citing anecdotal evidence. I ask why not? Why not support American products? You toss around slippery slope arguments like it’s your job (you have a very nice plug for your company at the end of your post; very subtle.) Never mind your racially-insensitive remarks. Just because I owned one product from another country that was great does not mean all overseas products are superior. Finally, if petitioning our government to deregulate would ACTUALLY get anything done within my lifetime, it would be a great solution. Unfortunately, government moves like molasses on a cold day, and a few letters to my congressmen would hardly make a difference. Instead, it is much more reasonable to support American companies in the products I purchase. If you choose not to, that’s your prerogative, but acting like this solution wouldn’t provide more jobs for Americans is asinine.