Colo. businessman launches website tracking economic impact of purchases

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Chris Kilcullen, founder of America’s Got Product website, spent a year researching the auto industry and rating car companies on their economic footprint in the U.S.

He came up with a four-star rating system based on factors including whether the car is manufactured or assembled in the U.S., if more than 50 percent of domestic parts are manufactured in the U.S., whether a company is based in the U.S. and if the company has corporate payroll in the U.S.

Four stars is the highest rating with the biggest economic footprint in the U.S.  General Motors and Ford models always leave the highest economic footprint in the U.S., Kilcullen said.

The idea behind the site is to educate people about how much money from their purchases stayed in the U.S., or linked to jobs in the nation, they might change spending patterns. For example, he gives the 2011 Chrysler 200 3.5 stars and the 2011 Toyota Corolla zero stars.

He started thinking that if people knew how much of their money was staying in the U.S. or linked to jobs in the U.S., they might change their spending patterns.

“Unless you believe Washington or even Wall Street is on the brink of fixing this economy, we have to participate in our recovery,” Kilcullen said.

Kilcullen, who lives in Evergreen, Colo., expects to launch his website AmericasGotProduct.com this week. The site has the auto ratings and he plans to add appliances and furniture to the database in the future.

He spent his career selling real estate and hotel properties. Over the years, he noticed the connection between manufacturing and the hotel industry and then between manufacturing and all other sectors, he said

For example, he had listed a hotel in Sequin, Texas, for $2 million dollars. Then, Caterpillar announced it would relocate to Sequin and bring 1,500 jobs. It changed the value of the hotel by $500,000 – the land was worth more and revenue was going to increase due to business travelers, Kilcullen said.

“That is when the light bulb went off for me,” he said. “When I buy something, a TV, a car, my spending ripples back to this economy, or it leaves and contributes to the $500 billion trade deficit.”

Frank Shannon, chair of the Colorado Steering Committee for Coalition for a Prosperous America Colorado Chapter, said this website is different from other sites that only advocate for products completely built in America. This site, he said, lets consumers know that some foreign-owned companies have U.S. employees and how much impact a purchase of that product has on the U.S. economy.

For example, Toyota has more than 700 employees in its Alabama manufacturing plant.

“The other websites give you the option of buy American or not,” Shannon said.

The Coalition for a Prosperous America is working to change federal legislation that affects trade and tax policy.

But, purchasing decisions don’t require change in the laws and can have an immediate affect on jobs, he said.

For Shannon, it’s not wishful thinking that buying American products one purchase at a time can affect the economy. In August, he closed his long-time business Finishes, a metal plating shop. Shannon said he lost many jobs to overseas companies, especially in China.

Kilcullen said there are 100 vehicle choices made in America leaving at least one star of an economic footprint on the U.S. economy.

“There are 800,000 to 1 million vehicles sold in America every month,” Kilcullen said. “Those are paychecks I want to influence now.”