CHICAGO (TheStreet) -- The Fourth of July is the unofficial kickoff for summer barbecue season. But as you're stocking up on supplies -- say, a blowup backyard pool for the kids, or grilling tools for dad -- take a moment to check how many of those things you've picked up at Wal-Mart (WMT - Get Report) or Target (TGT - Get Report) were made in a foreign country. Chance are, very few of the items scattered around your backyard were manufactured in the U.S.

More and more, Americans are making the connection between their shopping habits and the state of the national economy. In a survey conducted by the research and consulting firm Find/SVP, 83% of respondents said they would buy U.S.-made products as their first choice, given the option between goods made here and abroad.

Promoting a business' "Made in the U.S.A." credentials can be a great way to build good will for your brand.

That represents a huge opportunity for small businesses that do produce domestically. Promoting your "Made in the U.S.A." credentials is a great way to build good will for your brand. It's easy to make the connection for customers that supporting your business also supports American jobs.

Some small businesses have made their all-American pedigree a central part of their marketing. To get attention beyond their geographical area, such companies can sign up to be listed on a buy-American shopping site, such as, and

These sites tend to be independently run, mom and pop affairs (much like many of the companies they promote). Being linked to such sites is a relatively easy, cost-effective way to get yourself noticed by shoppers who make buying American a priority.

The Made in the USA Foundation offers a membership program for companies that join that includes promotional opportunities, expert business consultations and other benefits. The group's founder and chairman, attorney Joel Joseph, has been active in promoting consumer-awareness legislation and started The American Crafts Project, which helps independent artisans protect themselves against copyright infringements.

Joseph says interest in U.S.-made products has ebbed and flowed since he started the foundation in 1989. But now, he says, "I've been seeing 'Made in the U.S.A.' labels more now than ever before. This recession has really shaken people up and made them think about where and what they buy."

The foundation was started, in part, to counter the widespread belief that hardly anything is made in the U.S. anymore. "We're still the largest manufacturing company in the world," Joseph says. This weekend, the foundation will host its annual Hall of Fame Awards, which recognizes American manufacturers in 21 categories for their quality, competitiveness and impact. Nominees include the cookware company All-Clad, Ethan Allen ( ETH - Get Report), Xerox ( XRX - Get Report), 3M ( MMM - Get Report) and Harley-Davidson ( HOG - Get Report), all of which make their products in the U.S.

Promoting your products as American-made can be as easy as putting up a sign in your store, adding a tagline to the bottom of your stationary or attaching stickers to the front of packaging. But any company selling "Made in America" products must follow the standards set by Federal Trade Commission (you can read the specifics here). The FTC regularly sues companies that claim U.S.-made status but in reality manufacture elsewhere.

If you do meet the standard, you're free to use whatever kind of labeling you like (the FTC doesn't provide official seals of authenticity). If you'd like to add a certain level of authority, you can apply to Made In USA Certified, an independent group that completes a full supply-chain audit for each company that applies to use its seal, with fees varying according to company size. Once approved, a company can use the group's logo on all its promotional materials.

Alternately, the Ohio-based branding firm Conrad | Phillips | Vutech has developed a "Made in USA" certification mark that's available for free. All you have to do is fill out an online application. Once approved, companies can add the logo to their websites and packaging. Hundreds of small businesses across the country have signed up since the logo debuted a few years ago.

Recently, the Made in the USA foundation has been involved in promoting legislation that would require government-owned stores (such as the ones at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C.) to stock American-made items. It's one of the rare initiatives attracting bipartisan support. "There's a lot of energy behind this issue," Joseph says. "We're trying to come together and work on a lot of different levels."

>To submit a news tip, email:


Follow on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook.

This commentary comes from an independent investor or market observer as part of TheStreet guest contributor program. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of TheStreet or its management.