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When I consider what Kevin Plank, the CEO of Under Armour, has going on running a global sports apparel company that broke $3 billion in sales last year; developing a new hotel in Fells Point across the harbor from UA’s Baltimore HQ; rolling out a sparkling vision for the redevelopment of Port Covington, including a whiskey distillery; raising thoroughbred racehorses on historic Sagamore Farm all I can say is: Whew!

Plank has proven to be a smart businessman and a good citizen of Baltimore and Maryland.

The only thing that seems to be missing from Plank’s big plans is a factory that would put his fellow Marylanders to work making some of the products Under Armour sells around the world.

I realize that sounds like a quaint idea. American apparel and shoe companies have been manufacturing their products in Latin America and Asia for so long that, by now, most of us assume it could never be otherwise again. We assume those very cool but pricey shirts, pants and jackets bearing the UA logo would simply cost too much if they were made here. Labor is so much cheaper in Mexico and China, and yadda yadda yadda.

Manufacturing shoes and apparel is not completely foreign. New Balance shoes, for example, are manufactured in the United States.

Does “Made in USA” still matter to Americans?

Is everything about price point?

The way I see it, Under Armour makes a high quality product, stuff that’s built to last, and so far people don’t seem to mind paying for it.

merona polo why not Made in the USA
I’m not going to buy a UA product every week, every month, maybe not every year. But I’m willing to spring for the quality. And I might spring more often if I knew the product I was buying came from a factory in Port Covington or Easton or Frederick. are likely have a smaller carbon footprint. Most importantly, they would provide jobs for people in a city or county where the unemployment usually runs higher than Maryland’s statewide rate.

Recently, Under Armour tried to woo NBA All Star Kevin Durant to endorse UA’s basketball shoes over Nike’s. Plank’s company offered Durant $280 million over 10 years. Durant still went with Nike, but clearly, as it surpasses Adidas and gains a bigger piece of the athletic footwear and apparel market, Under Armour has money to invest.

Maybe the company could invest some of it in American manufacturing. workers,” David Scharff, a Baltimore physician, wrote me in an email after I suggested in a recent column that Under Armour get into manufacturing at home. “How many Baltimoreans could they employ with $28 million a year? Two hundred and eighty workers making $100,000 (pay, 401k, health benefits). What would it be worth in marketing value? What advantage over Nike would that be in the marketplace?”

It certainly seems like a way to differentiate a product line: “UA Made in the USA.”

According to its website, the company manufactures some “quick turn” products for high profile athletes, teams and leagues in its distribution facility in Glen Burnie, “an immaterial portion of our total net revenues.”

But who’s to say that expanding that operation for the retail market and marketing UA Made in the USA wouldn’t open a larger door for the company?
merona polo why not Made in the USA