William Spencer was just 13 when he jumped on a train leaving his Kentucky home looking for adventure. He ended up in Alliance, OH, working for the Pennsylvania Railroad. In 1923 he founded a rubber factory after finding uses for tire inner tubes. Eventually, he moved his operations to Hot Springs, AR, to find relief for his arthritis.
Today, 91 years after Spencer first established the company, Alliance Rubber Company, the parent company of Ad Bands (asi/34345), is still run by Spencer’s family in Hot Springs, and proud to make 94% of its products in America. While other companies have moved production overseas, Alliance Rubber is determined to stay true to its American roots. “Nationwide, almost 6 million manufacturing jobs have been lost over the past 10 years,” says Jason Risner, strategic marketing manager. “It has a negative impact on the economy, both locally and nationally. We want to keep people employed, while offering faster turnarounds and less risk with transit and possible loss.”
Alliance continues to do its part to keep jobs in its home state, recently developing equipment that can print four-color, photo quality digital prints on any rubber color. “This has created 15 new jobs for us,” says Risner, “and Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe visited us at the official announcement.”
Alliance has made American manufacturing a major component of its product development and branding, and is a member in several domestic production organizations. But even there, they experienced push-back. “At meetings, we’d ask, ‘Why not put together a coalition to massively promote made-in-the-USA?’” says Risner. “They said that many of their members had some overseas production, so they wouldn’t want to get behind it. We didn’t want to wait, so we created a contest.”
Alliance Rubber named it “Band Together. Buy American,” and held the first one in 2012 and another this past summer. Participants pledge, through social media and QR codes on Alliance Rubber packaging, to spend an additional $1 a day on an American-made item, and, as a result, are entered into a sweepstakes to win a trip for four to any domestic destination. “It’s created a lot of buzz,” says Risner. “Both times, we’ve gotten $1 million to $1.2 million pledged. It’s casual and fun. We don’t check receipts, and it can be anything made in the USA, not just our items.”
This year, the winner is from Plymouth Meeting, PA, and plans to take his family of four to Chicago, San Francisco or Seattle. Because of its success, Alliance has plans to hold the contest every summer.
So is U.S. production experiencing a rebound? Risner is confident it is. “We’re seeing companies move back here,” he says. “But there has to be a larger change in perspective among companies and consumers. Sometimes the problem is that it’s hard to find American items, but it’s becoming easier and once people do, they often choose that item over a similar one made overseas.”