February 7, 2012 Leave a comment
Reported by: Adam Paluka Published: 2/06 8:03 pm
Buy American and you help the economy. That is an old adage that is getting new life thanks to a movement to build homes across the nation using more products with the “Made in the U.S.A.” label.
If you were to drive around Tulsa, chances are you’ll pass a home built by Bill Rhees. He’s been making blueprints a reality for almost 50 years with his son, and Partner, Phil Rhees.
Together they run BMI Construction. Right now, they’re working on a $5 million home near 111th and Yale in south Tulsa.
“This house we started about three and a half years ago,” Phil told FOX23.
2008 was a time when no one was thinking about a “Made in America Movement“. It never came up with buyers.
“Never, never. They just assumed, and I’ve been amazed myself how many of the products we put in these houses come from overseas,” Bill said.
It never came up when they discussed what lumber, stones, and drywall to buy.
“We don’t know exactly where every individual product came from,” Phil explained.
Phil said last month that is changing, “We really do want to make a effort to make this happen.”
The “Made in America Movement” is simple, encourage builders across the country to use just five percent more made in American products during construction. It’s not the brain child of the feds, a housing agency, or politician, rather it began as a dream by on builder in Montana.
If every builder in the country buys in, Paul Kane with the Tulsa Home Builders Association said, “They’re going to create anywhere to 220,000 to 250,000 jobs nationwide.”
Phil is up for the challenge.
“I believe that we could easily use five percent more,” he said.
Easy because it could take just a few phone calls to get everything with a Made in the U.S.A. sticker.
“You need to spend some time on the phone with the suppliers to find out where these products are coming from,” Phil said.
Often, its overseas, but if you were to look hard enough, the movement’s believers say you’ll not only find all elements of home construction made in the U.S.A., but some made right here in Oklahoma.
Products like York HVACs systems made in Norman.
“If there’s a buy Oklahoma or buy American movement that would be exciting to everyone in this building,” Vicki Davis, who works for York’s parent company Johnson Controls, said.
Their facility is a world of machines, robots, assembly lines, and hard working Oklahomans.
Around 750 people get a paycheck at the plant.
“We offer the higher quality, and that’s what we sell our products on. It’s not that we build the cheapest, but it’s that we build the highest quality,” Davis told FOX23.
Should the buy American dream become a reality Davis would be excited.
“If we pick up five or ten percent (new orders), then we’re going to add anywhere from 150 to 200 jobs here in the Norman plant.”
Cost could be a factor, if made in America means your wallet takes a beating this might not work.
“A lot of it has to do with price. We have to be price conscious for our clients,” Phil said,
If the price increase to buy American made is slight, BMI Construction is ready to get on board
“It is going to happen, once we start getting the word out. It’s going to happen, just watch it,” Bill Rhees said.
Now, it’s all about getting the word out.
“If we were unaware as builders, just think what the general public is going to be thinking. They’re going to say, ‘My gosh, I never realized this.’”
Supporters of the movement tell me the Americans build 1.4 million homes each year. They say if builders reallocate 5% of their construction spending to American made products, this would add roughly $10 billion to America’s Gross Domestic Product.
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