This Made In Chicago IPRO project follows the Made In USA IPRO series to advance conscientious purchasing among American consumers. The term “locally-made” is a broad term that makes it difficult for consumers to truly understand where materials are sourced in order to make informed purchase decisions. This IPRO project will explore how these ambiguities can be clarified to equip American consumers with reliable information to support their locally-made purchasing decision.
In the larger context, even as the number of Americans embracing a Made-in-USA mindset grows, it is still rather difficult for consumers to optimize their purchasing power and practice a lifestyle that tries to support American products and companies. It is estimated that Americans spend close to 20 percent of their incomes on goods and items that are non-essential needs, an annualized 2.3 trillion dollars from spending tracked in 2015 (1) (bloombergview.com). This means making frequent purchasing choices is intrinsic to our American way-of-life, therefore potential for impact is high.
Manufacturing has the largest multiplying effect in the US economy compared to all other sectors, creating more than seven additional jobs per one manufacturing job (2) (themanufacturinginstitute.org). Companies are beginning to reconsider their manufacturing locations and how that influences bottom line and quality. Creating greater demand through conscientious purchasing can potentially accelerate this shift in some industries. It is estimated that if about 90 percent of Americans reallocated one dollar per day, spending one dollar less on foreign-made goods, and one dollar more on American-made goods, after a year, this could add $109.5 billion to the American economy, which equates to about 2,737,500 new jobs paying $40,000 per year (3) (madeinusa.org)
The purchasing region that the summer IPRO 303 team will focus on is the City of Chicago, which represents a prime opportunity for better connecting consumers to locally made products. The goal of this IPRO project is to design a solution that will empower a Chicagoan or visitor to (1) more easily connect to products that are locally made in Chicago and (2) trust the information provided to them about these products. The IPRO team will establish criteria to qualify many locally made items in the Chicago area. The team will also design and build a prototype web platform that will include the opportunity to crowd-source information about locally-made products, and create a dynamic, constantly updating resource for consumers.
In the initial weeks of the summer session, the IPRO team will develop a broad view of current locally-made spending and understand trends in American jobs in various sectors along with the environmental impact associated with where products are made and purchased. The team will also identify and review current strategies and tactics for informing consumers about which products are locally-made and how such designations, labeling, etc., if any, are determined and by which organizations. During the remaining weeks, the IPRO team will prototype concepts to validate how they might better support consumer decision-making and behavior that connects consumers with Chicago products and companies.