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Building Homes with American-Made Materials Could Save the Economy

Can we build our way out of this recession?
Building Homes with American-Made Materials Could Save the Economy

Anders Lewendal, a builder in Bozeman, thinks so. He’s about halfway through building what he’s pitching as “The All-American Home,” a 2,000 sq. ft., two-story house constructed entirely of U.S.-made materials.

Now it’s probably true that the bulk of building materials that go into the average American home are sourced pretty close to home already. In fact, you can probably build a 70-percent American home without even trying. But Lewendal is out to make a point: By paying attention to where products are made, and incrementally pumping up American suppliers, builders (who are still building) can rev up the economy.

5% could make a big difference

By his calculation, if builders reallocated just 5% of their construction spending to American-made products, they’d add $14 billion to the U.S. economy. So on a Facebook page for his cause, he’s asking fellow builders to register for what he calls the “5% Club.”

It’s not a nationalistic idea, nor a partisan one, Lewendal emphasizes. He’s a small builder who constructs a half-dozen homes in a good year, and acknowledges heading up a national cause is good publicity. But he’s also using this as a learning experience, for himself and for other builders encouraged to do the same thing, and he’s started work on a database (see below) of American-made products used on this project.

“We don’t need every builder to build every single home with all-American products,” he told me. “That’s not practical and it’s not necessary.” But before handing over less money for a foreign product, he suggests considering the true cost. He makes a point with collated nails. American-made Maze orTrueSpec cost him more per box, but they don’t jam his gun the way the cheaper Chinese-made ones do. So it’s like this: spend money=save time=save money=save economy.

“It may be a little naïve or optimistic,” he says. “but it could happen.”