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W.Va. native's website promotes American manufacturing companies

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Wheeling native Mark Reasbeck remembers trying to get a porch swing for his and his brother's cabin in southern Utah.

"We went to Kohl's, Home Depot, Ace and a local lumberyard, said Reasbeck, who has become a major advocate for "made in America" products. "All of them had Chinese swings, in different packages. I got tired of all these big-box stores telling us our only choice was to buy something made in China.

"I ended up paying $40 more for my porch swing. But it is a work of art," he said. "We bought it from a local shop that builds swings and yard furniture."

The shop -- Louisiana Cypress in Pollock, La. -- has nine family members working there, Reasbeck said.

"I ordered it from them, because I knew where it came from. My money went to the little business owned by Alice Brooks," Reasbeck said.

Born in Wheeling in 1952, Reasbeck lived in Las Vegas for 50 years before recently moving back east to Fall Branch, Tenn., a little town between Kingsport and Johnson City.

Today, he works on his website -- www.usaonly.us -- which promotes 1,225 American businesses that employ 58,137 American workers.

The website provides a map where people can click on states to find local businesses operating there.

It lists seven companies in West Virginia:

* Linn Pottery Studio and Gallery in Wheeling.

* Fenton Art Glass in Williamstown.

* Christmas Ornament Co. in Evans.

* Masterpiece Crystal in Jane Lew.

* Eagle Manufacturing Co. in Wellsburg.

* Up the Creek LLC in Montgomery.

* West Virginia Fruit and Berry LLC in Bridgeport.

Most businesses on the USAonly website sell products to individual consumers, including furniture, jewelry, glassware, clothing, sporting goods, pets, household tools, cars, fruits and vegetables.

During a telephone interview Friday, Reasbeck said he launched the site July 2, 2010, and spent the first year finding stores that sell goods made in America.

Interest in his website increased, he said, when ABC News began its "Made In America" series and compiled a list of websites of companies manufacturing products with local workers.

"Mine was the first website on ABC News," Reasbeck said. "It has been fun to do this. And I don't charge companies to list their products on our website.

"Every time they do a program on 'Made in America,' I get a few more companies go to my website."

When local company owners contact him, Reasbeck said he routinely asked them what their thoughts about America are.

"Their views have been so diverse and so powerful that we created a little movie theater on our site. For the most part, they are not political, but patriotic.

"These businesses are our neighbors. They are people who need our support. We need to get past the idea of buying 'the cheapest thing out there.'

"We need to get back to the spirit of Henry Ford."

Reasbeck said he was attracted to political efforts in West Virginia to promote American-made products.

Earlier this year, the West Virginia Legislature passed the West Virginia Buy American Act. Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin signed it in March.

The new legislation created the "Buy American Task Force" to review the new law's detailed provisions and requirements, before they can take effect. Task force members will report to the Legislature early next year.

"If we take your tax money, we want to buy products made in America,"said Delegate Larry Barker, D-Boone, a sponsor of the legislation.

Reasbeck talked about how much our economy has changed over the last half century.

"We have lost the appliance and electronic industries. We developed those industries. We should not have lost them.

"Back in 1955, the Fortune 500's top companies included: General Motors, U.S. Steel, Bethlehem Steel, food companies like Kraft and major appliance companies.

"Today the top 20 Fortune 500 companies are mostly banks and companies like Verizon. The top company is Walmart, which doesn't produce anything and imports almost everything from China."

Any businesses interested in being added to the USAonly list can contact it through its website or by calling 702-604-0005.

Reasbeck said his website is limited to promoting manufactured products, not services.

Reach Paul J. Nyden at pjnyden@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5164.


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