When it comes to American flags, buy American, please
Its OK, I guess, for some stuff to be made in China. Stuff you find in Chinatowns should be made in China. And theres lots of stuff that doesnt seem to be made anywhere but China.
But American flags should not be made in China.
Today is Flag Day (you forgot to mail your Happy Flag Day cards, didnt you?), and we should be concerned about this stat from the U.S. Census Bureaus Foreign Trade Division: In 2011, $3.6 million worth of American flags were imported into the U.S. from other countries.
The vast majority of this amount ($3.3 million) was for U.S. flags made in China, the census reported.
So, my fellow Americans, it seems our beloved Stars and Stripes is no different from our beloved cars and HDTVs and other stuff. We buy a lot of foreign-made American flags.
Im at my most patriotic when it comes to American flags and Olympic basketball. We should always win the Olympic basketball gold medal, and we can make our own flags, thank you very much. So how about if we refrain even if it costs a few bucks more from buying American flags made in China or anywhere outside the U.S.? (OK, maybe Canada is OK. Theyre so nice up there.)
Distressed by the Chinese flag numbers, I called my pipeline to the flag industry, Harvey Kronberg of Austin Flag and Flagpole, where his wife, Michele, is president and CEO and does most of the work. Harvey Kronberg also is the Harvey Kronberg of Harvey Kronbergs Quorum Report, a great source of Texas political insight.
I asked Kronberg if I should be concerned about a pending Chinese
takeover of the American flag industry. He allayed my fears, assuring me that $3.3 million worth of Chinese-made American flags is a hugely insignificant market share.
I checked with the National Independent Flag Dealers Association. (Ive told you this before: Everybodys got an association. This years NIFDA convention is in Chicago and, as NIFDA notes, the Windy City (is) the ideal place for flag dealers to meet.)
NIFDA President James Giraudo told me that total annual sales of made-in-America American flags in America is about $55 million.
One of our goals at NIFDA is to promote American flags made by Americans, he said. I support that, as well as sending our best basketball players to the Olympics. (My ideal American moment: Gold-medal U.S. basketball players watching an American- made American flag being raised as The Star- Spangled Banner is played.)
Kronberg said that other than toothpick flags and lapel pins, everything he sells is made in the U.S. of A. We would be taken out and shot if we sold any Chinese or any foreign-produced American flags, he said, assuring me that there is a vibrant and competitive domestic flag industry that keeps prices affordable.
Something else about flags or, more specifically, flagpoles: Kronberg said they can be a leading economic indicator.
Homebuilders are major customers for 30-and 60-foot poles. They use them in new subdivisions. Thirty-footers sell for about $1,000, and 60-footers run $6,000 to $7,000. The price includes storage at Kronbergs business when the poles are not in use.
When homebuilders are busy building and selling homes, Kronberg does not have to store many flagpoles. When things slow down, the in-storage pole count goes up. (This is kind of like the rig count in the oil business.)
The pole count topped out at about 20 in the wake of the 2008 economic nosedive that took the homebuilding industry with it. Now, Kronbergs got about a half dozen in storage for builders. Thats still higher than it was pre- 2008, but Kronbergs convinced the current number is evidence that construction workers are being hired and money is moving through the system in the construction industry.
Something else to know: Kronberg, guided by his late dad Louis distaste for the thought of American flags in a landfill, accepts worn flags and gives them to Boy Scout units that use them for learning about the proper way to retire the Stars and Stripes.
Even Chinese-made American flags deserve that kind of respect.
Ken Herman is a columnist for the Austin (Texas) American-Statesman. Readers may write to him at email@example.com.