What began quite innocently as a pet project turned into a national movement for Anders Lewendal, the Bozeman, Mont., builder who has since gained wide acclaim for constructing a house made entirely from U.S.-made products.
Initially, Lewendal set out to build an “efficient, affordable and environmentally healthy” home for a client whose daughter has cystic fibrosis. In researching the building materials and parts required for the project, Lewendal was struck with this idea: Why not go for all-American parts and materials.
The U.S.-made house was built with more than 120 products from 33 states. Everything from the nails, screws and bolts, to the steel, staples and bathtub was made in the U.S. Even the dishwasher – a Whirlpool product – was made at a U.S. factory.
In the end, the only product Lewendal said he could not find from U.S. sources was a door chime. His solution? A doorknocker, which was made in America.
Chris Ogle, purchasing manager at Kenyon Noble Lumber & Hardware, Bozeman, Mont., provided the vast majority of building materials for Lewendal’s project. “We were surprised at how many building materials are made in the U.S., although it’s not something we had ever really monitored before,” Ogle said.
The most difficult product to find was drywall screws, according to Ogle, who eventually tracked down a Nevada distributor.
The Bozeman-centered “Made in the U.S.A.” project struck a chord. Lewendal was featured in scores of newspaper and magazine articles, as well as a segment on ABC World News with Diane Sawyer, in which a reporter and film crew followed Lewendal throughout the process.
By Lewendal’s account, 30 million people have heard about the “Made in the USA” project either through the media or Internet searches. “I never thought it would grow to this point, but I’m glad it did,” he said. “This is an exercise we hope will manifest itself into a movement.”
Lewendal does not build every house with American-made parts. That would not be feasible. What he is seeking is incremental change. “I think we could solve this recession if everyone shifted just 5 percent of their purchases to U.S.-made products,” he said.
Lewendal scoffs at the notion there is no manufacturing left in the U.S. “What I’ve learned is there’s a lot of value in American companies,” he said.
He is not alone in that thinking. Kenyon Noble has been similarly moved by the Made in the U.S.A. experience. “It was an eye-opening project for all involved, a worthwhile effort,” Ogle said. “Since then, we have directed our purchasing managers to look into buying more products from American-made companies.”