22 June, 2016
Manufacturing is an important industry in the United States. However, for many years, Americans have expressed fear that the industry is in decline.
In the late 19th to middle 20th century, America stood as the industrial powerhouse of the world. Consumers sought the latest American-made products, from cars to refrigerators to televisions.
But, things began to change in the late 1970s. Japan and China caught up with the U.S. in the production of many consumer goods. Today, China is a manufacturing powerhouse itself. It produces about 80 percent of the world's air conditioners, 70 percent of its mobile phones and 60 percent of its shoes. Chinese products represent almost half of all the goods made in the world.
And, now in the United States, it can be difficult to find a manufacturer to help develop a product.
Matthew Burnett knows this all too well. The American businessman started a watch company in 2007. At first, he had overseas manufacturers make all his products. As a result, Burnett often faced shipping delays, a lack of quality control, and time zone issues.
Later, he expanded into leather goods. Still, he struggled to find domestic factories to make the wallets, belts, and other products of his new brand.
And he was not alone. Many American entrepreneurs found it easier to go out of the country for manufacturing. There was no central marketplace for the industry.
So, Matthew Burnett, and his business partner Tanya Menendez, created one. They called it Maker's Row.
Since 2012, the online marketplace has been connecting entrepreneurs with American manufacturers.
Matthew Burnett explains.
"What we try to do at Maker's Row is to encourage the brands to start producing in the United States so that you see more made in America products on the shelves. We used to produce 97 percent of the apparel that we consume here in the United States, today it's less than three percent. So it makes it very challenging to find sometimes made in America products, but that's the narrative we're trying to shift, by bringing these brands back home to produce."
Makersrow.com also helps brands and businesses find and organize their supply chains.
A manufacturer pays a monthly fee to be listed on the site. It includes project planning software and a search feature. Manufacturers can also receive factory bids through the site.
For an additional cost, entrepreneurs get additional support.
Maker's Row can be especially helpful to new or part-time entrepreneurs. The site can provide a plan for turning an idea into a business.
And co-founder Tanya Menendez says Maker's Row offers classes and training.
"We have an online academy so people can take free online courses. They're designed for people with busy lifestyles.
A lot of people that come to Maker's Row start off working 9-to-5 and having this become like their side hustle so we cater to those entrepreneurs too and then we have project software where established businesses can organize all of their ideas in one place."
Today, the Maker's Row website has 80,000 registered users.
The registration and fee structure to access the site helps ensure the users are serious about their business, Menendez says.
The BCG company in Boston advises businesses around the world. It estimates the average cost to manufacture goods in the U.S. is only five-percent higher than in China. And the company predicts that by 2018 the cost difference will narrow further, to as little as two percent higher.
Maker's Row and other similar efforts could play a big part in making that prediction come true.
I'm Marsha James.
Marsha James wrote this story for Learning English. Caty Weaver was the editor.
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Words in This Story
decline - n. the process of becoming worse in condition or quality
powerhouse – n. a group of people or an organization that has a lot of power
caught up - v. to overtake someone or something or surpass a competitor
air conditioner - n. a machine that is used to cool and dry the air in a building or room
domestic - adj. relating to, or made in your own country
brand – n. a category of products that are all made by a particular company and all have a particular name
entrepreneur - n. a person who starts a business and is willing to risk loss in order to make money
marketplace – n. a place in a town where products are bought and sold
encourage – v. to make (someone) more determined, hopeful or confident
apparel – n. clothing of a particular kind
challenging – adj. difficult in a way that is usually interesting or enjoyable
narrative – n. a story that is told or written
shift – v. to move or to cause (something or someone) to move to a different place, position, etc.
chain – n. a group of businesses (such as stores, restaurants, or hotels) that have the same name and basic appearance and sell the same products or services
academy – n. a school that provides training in special subjects or skills
side hustle - a way to make some extra cash on a service or product and you do it on the side of your normal paying job
cater to – phrasal verb to provide what is wanted or needed by (someone or something)