Made in PA: Buying Local is a State of Mind

The pride you have for your home state and town is a feeling that is rooted in your being. Born and raised in Pennsylvania, I have an unconditional love for “The Keystone State.” After leaving home, I spent the next ten years living in the Washington, D.C. area. I loved living among all the nation’s capital has to offer. But when it came time to start a family, I knew where I wanted to grow our roots.

When I began a journey through my blog, made in usa challenge, I was pleased to discover how many items are still being manufactured in my home state. Now that I am living back in my home state, I appreciate the rich history, culture and nature Pennsylvania provides. When it comes to adopting a buy local lifestyle, the location is ideal for my challenge.

Slinky is the official state toy; K’nex and Crayola also produce a portion of their products in the state. Other products Pennsylvanians can be proud of include Yuengling beer ( but ironically, not Keystone Light) and Asher’s Chocolates (Hershey’s has been mostly outsourced and the target of child labor scandals). Even closer to me is the natural cleaning company Sun and Earth’s factory located near the mall in King of Prussia.

Another Pennsylvania find is Zippo, a discovery my husband and I made en-route to our honeymoon in 2007. After our wedding in Lancaster, we set out for our planned getaway in Toronto. Desperate for a pit stop to stretch our legs, we stopped in Bradford, PA and were greeted by a giant Zippo lighter street light. We had stumbled upon the Zippo factory and museum, which provided a surprisingly fun diversion.

A fun local destination is the Crayola Factory in the Lehigh Valley. Crayola has been manufacturing Crayons in Easton, PA since 1902. The majority of their coloring products are still made here in their plant located nearby the “Crayola Factory Experience”, an interactive museum for children to have fun learning how Crayola makes their crayons. We had a blast spending a day emerged in the colorful world of Crayola, right in our own backyard.

Another local favorite is the Please Touch Museum in Philadelphia. A place of discovery and play, the museum is also home to recycled art created by local artists. On display are sculptures crafted by local artist Leo Sewell, a Philly native who combs through the city’s trash collecting “found objects” to create these unique works of art.

This spring I had the pleasure to attend Philly Fashion Week. I was thrilled to speak with local designers and hear that beautiful garments are being both designed and produced locally. The apparel industry seems to be on the edge of a manufacturing revolution, and Philly would be a great place to lead the movement. Designers seem very conscious of the fact that producing locally means better quality control, leading to higher quality garments. And though American manufacturing is more expensive, the shipping costs are less, local jobs are created, and the end result is meticulously created couture pieces.

Discovering the rich manufacturing history of my state has made me even prouder to call Pennsylvania home. It has also strengthened my dedication to seeking out and buying locally made products. Buying local is an investment in your own community, putting money back into your state and providing local jobs. Domestic manufacturing also means a smaller environmental impact, with products traveling shorter distances from factory to consumer. In addition to supporting large corporations that chose to continue to produce in the US, look for local independent shops that help build communities, local foods in farmer’s markets and handmade items by local artisans.

What products are made in your local community? How do they contribute to your local economy?