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Legislator pushing 'Made in America' requirement for county purchases

Mike Desmond/WBFO News

Erie County Legislators are likely to vote later this month on a proposal from Legislator Ted Morton to require the county to buy goods that are "Made in America."

Morton's proposal would require all county purchases over $10,000 be made in the United States and contracts for services over $10,000 would have to be made with American entities. According to Morton, there are many local companies which would benefit from the new rule.

One of those companies, computer-maker BAK USA, expressed a nuanced perspective at a public hearing on Wednesday. Communications Manager Carly Battin said it's a complicated matter because her company makes computers here mostly from overseas parts suppliers.
"There's an opportunity here, to lead the way in the national conversation about revitalizing American manufacturing in a way that's realistic and forward-looking and that supports the efforts of companies like ours to make both innovative products and a positive community impact," Battin said.

While Morton's measure has drawn some national attention, local enthusiasm was not on display. Only two speakers addressed the hearing. There was nobody in the audience.

The other speaker was Lancaster Area Chamber of Commerce President John Chmarney who expressed a bullish confidence in local "competitive" companies.

"They ship goods all over the world. We know that because we sign the export certifications," Chmarney explained. "So, if they can be competitive with sending goods to Saudi Arabia, sending goods to the United Arab Emirates, we certainly would be competitive by shipping them right here locally to Erie County, should this law be passed."

To go into effect, the proposal would have to be passed by the Legislature, signed by County Executive Mark Poloncarz, and then approved by voters in a referendum, likely in November. Legislators are likely to deal with the measure during a special meeting later this month.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.