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Relieving Your Domestic Content Headaches

As I discussed in a recent post, the concept of Made in America is not always as simple as it seems. Buyers need to be vigilant to ensure every element of a product they buy is made in the U.S. When it comes to pipe and tubing, it’s not uncommon for a product to be sold as “made in America” — but the elbows, couplings and nipples used could have been manufactured elsewhere.

Deception and uncertainty can create a major problem for engineers and contractors who have enough to worry about when it comes to ensuring compliance with domestic content laws.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), passed in 2009, has raised the issue of domestic content to a new level over the past few years, as industries have scrambled to ensure they are in compliance. The law includes a Buy American provision that requires any public project funded by the act to use only iron, steel and other manufactured goods produced in the United States. But ARRA is just part of the picture.

The Buy American Act and The Buy America Act have been part of the government purchasing landscape for years. These acts favor U.S.-made products for government purchases. New regulations will continue be added. A recent federal transportation bill also includes a Buy American amendment.

Additionally, there are multiple state regulations, including Pennsylvania’s Steel Products Procurement Act. States continue to push for Buy American laws, so regional complexity is likely to grow. The Pennsylvania law was recently upheld by the 3rd District Court of Appeals — another clear sign that we’ll continue to have a combination of state and federal regulations.

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Does “Made in America” Mean Made in America?

We all think we know what Made in America means. The concept is simple enough. And the implications are certainly clear. American manufacturing has always suggested a high standard of quality along with patriotic pride and the support of the economy.

The importance of supporting the domestic economy has become an increasingly critical issue as America continues to work its way out of the deep recession that has engulfed the world over the past few years.

For engineers and contractors, Made in America isn’t just a rallying cry. Meeting the requirements of domestic content laws is a fundamental challenge for the design and construction business.

Long standing federal legislation, such as the Buy America Act as well as more recent laws such as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), create a series of (often confusing) mandates about the use of American-made products in federally-funded projects. State laws such as Pennsylvania’s Steel Products Procurement Act add an additional layer of complexity.

And the legal landscape is only going to get more complex.

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