There's no doubt that buying American-made products keeps and creates jobs and stimulates the U.S. economy. Yet today the majority of purchases in the United States are foreign goods, up from only 8 percent in 1960. And according to the Alliance for American Manufacturing, 5.1 million U.S. factory jobs have been lost since 2000.
Martha Stewart is setting out to do something about it with her fourth annual "American Made" awards program. It recognizes makers, small business owners and entrepreneurs creating American-made products related to crafts, design, food and style.
Nine companies will be selected by Stewart and a Martha Stewart Living editorial panel of judges and one "Audience Choice Winner" will be chosen by voters at the American Made website. Each of the 10 winners will receive $10,000, a trip for two to New York City to attend Stewart's "American Made Summit," a profile feature on MarthaStewart.com and help with marketing their businesses.
Although most of the prior award recipients make products you'd expect to see in Stewart's magazine–clothing, furniture, hand-stitched quilts and the like–innovative companies a little farther off the mark have made it in, as well. For example, the Wythe Hotel in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, was awarded for converting a 111-year-old textile factory into a 72-room hotel while preserving "the building's historical integrity." Another different kind of winner: Artsy, a website that features a database of 300,000 images of art, architecture and design and used by art aficionados, students and educators to find, learn about and collect art.
Emma Zimmerman, business manager of Phoenix-based Hayden Flour Mills–one of last year's award recipients–says her tiny company appreciated the opportunity to celebrate what it had achieved since launching in 2010. "When you're doing the day-to-day drudgery of milling and running a small business, you don't really think anyone notices or that you're making an impact so we were just completely surprised by receiving the news that we won," she says. "[It] increased our business in a wonderful way but it wasn't like we were working 24/7 all of the sudden. We were able to grow with that publicity in a really organic way."