Newspaper article International New York Times

Giving Goods a Handcrafted Image as a Way to Bolster the Supply Chain

Newspaper article International New York Times

Giving Goods a Handcrafted Image as a Way to Bolster the Supply Chain

Article excerpt

The group, Made in NYC, hopes to capitalize on the popularity of locally created items, urging customers to go beyond big-box stores for daily shopping needs.

The image of the American factory floor is as classic as Henry Ford's Model T assembly line and just as enduring in the popular imagination. For decades, manufacturing jobs have been the ladder to the middle class for Americans of modest means and education.

So when Made in NYC, a group that promotes local manufacturing in New York, began an advertising campaign this spring, its goal was more than just to draw attention to items produced in the city. Supporters of that group and others like it around the country are trying to redefine what American manufacturing means in the 21st century. They hope to capitalize on a newfound embrace of artisanal and handcrafted goods and urge consumers accustomed to big-box globalization to think of their shopping habits in the context of local economic investment.

"Urban manufacturing creates opportunity," said Adam Friedman, director of the Pratt Center for Community Development, which developed Made in NYC. "We're coming out of a recession, which really drove home the point that you need a strong manufacturing base to create jobs."

When Made in NYC was conceived in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, "this was a strategy to both encourage consumers to shop more locally and to get companies to buy from each other to strengthen local supply chains," Mr. Friedman said.

Growth was initially slow, until four or five years ago. "Something dramatic changed," he said. "I think there was really a shift in consumer preferences. It coincided with the whole locavore movement."

Seizing on this trend, and with $750,000 from the New York City Council, Made in NYC introduced its recent campaign with "Dreams, Jobs and ____," and, "Made Here in NYC."

"We're helping businesses learn how to market themselves a little more, but also doing a public branding campaign," said Melissa Mark- Viverito, the City Council speaker. "We're raising that level of consciousness and awareness."

This quest to revitalize urban manufacturing is not limited to New York City.

Founded in 2011, the Urban Manufacturing Alliance is a grass- roots effort to help small manufacturers. Led by the Pratt Center and an alliance of manufacturers in San Francisco called SFMade, it has members in 115 cities, including Cincinnati, Detroit and Seattle. This year it formed a committee to focus on local marketing strategies, said Lee Wellington, the group's founding executive director.

"Within the economic development movement, there isn't always a recognition that branding is a viable strategy," Ms. Wellington said. Urban manufacturers are realizing that, along with issues like zoning regulations and land use rules, marketing plays a role in advocacy -- retaining industrial zoning in gentrifying neighborhoods, for instance -- as well as increasing sales. …

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