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Made in America: Church Landing

Kathi Caldwell-Hopper - June 25, 2012





It takes a big commitment to buy solely Made in America products. Many of us espouse the importance of supporting American manufacturers and keeping jobs in this country. However, it’s not always easy to do so and often it is just more convenient to grab any product, without determining where it was made, off the shelf to save time and money; that product may have been made in another country as easily as it could have been produced in the United States.

Just ask Rusty McLear, the president of the Inns and Spa at Mill Falls and the management team of the expansion project at Church Landing (a Mill Falls property) in Meredith. The extremely popular resort/hotel is in the midst of adding new space to the lakefront property and they’ve been striving to meet a unique challenge to use Made in America products on the project. In conjunction with Conneston Construction, Inc. of Gilford, the Inns & Spa at Mill Falls took up the challenge for the Church Landing Phase II project that has been going on this winter. The Made in America Challenge, an initiative of ABC-TV’s World News Tonight with Diane Sawyer, is based on the simple concept of buying products that are made in America to help put Americans back to work.

“Both Bill Smith, the job supervisor and Ross Currier, who is in charge of project, brought up the idea,” says Rusty McLear. “I thought it was a good idea to investigate if we could meet that challenge in this construction project. The sub contractors we used really picked up on the idea and all the people working on the project were enthusiastic about it.”

Rusty says the challenge generated a life of its own. “We found that almost anything we needed for the construction that was not made in America could be found made in this country—and sometimes for less money.”

During the construction process, the contractors have been able to use mostly Made in America products; a modest amount of items, such as the small elevator in one building, was not available in the Unites States and had to be purchased in Canada. Also, some small electrical items and hinges for the project were not made in America, but it’s estimated about 95 percent of the purchased products for the job were indeed made in this country.

The idea, according to Rusty, was to take up Diane Sawyer’s challenge in the construction of the Church Landing project and help create jobs for Americans. It’s a very pertinent goal at a time when many people, all across the country, are still struggling to find jobs.

Due to the lack of snow this past winter, the project is on schedule and may indeed be completed sooner than originally scheduled. Conneston Construction began the project in the fall of 2011; when completed, Phase II will offer two new buildings with a total of 17,000 square feet of guest rooms, lounges and an indoor/outdoor pool, all overlooking the lake.

With an ambitious project on the table and a strict timeframe in which to complete the job, why add to the potential roadblocks by taking on the Made in American challenge?  “In a construction meeting in October, we went around the room and asked ourselves ‘Would it really be that hard to make sure as much, if not all, of the project was manufactured in this country?’ ” says Ross Currier, vice president of Conneston Construction. “We wondered if a lot of what we’re already buying meets the definition of being Made in America. So that’s just what we did.”

During the project, all the subcontractors were asked to check every piece of material to determine if everything used was made in America. “If we discovered it wasn’t Made in America, we asked ourselves if we could switch to a product that is domestically made. Is there an option to buy it in the US? If there is, will we have to pay more?” explains Currier. “These were the questions we asked ourselves, and what we discovered is this expansion project could be 95 percent Made in America.”

If those working on this project could take up the challenge and succeed, it’s sure others can do so too. Rusty McLear hopes the effort will help to serve as a blueprint for others looking to take the Made in America Challenge and help put Americans back to work. In the process, businesses just may discover, as did those involved in the Church Landing project, that some products made right here in America are the same price, but of a superior quality.

Everything, from the nails to the steel, the staples, lumber, bathtubs and many other products used on the project, were American made. Although certain goods were a bit more expensive, in total, the cost for the project is nearly identical to what it would have been had made outside-of-America products been used. Rusty notes that while several NH projects receiving federal stimulus funds are required to buy American made products, this construction project is the only privately funded job in the state to be Made in America. According to findings on ABC-TV World News, if every builder bought just five percent more American materials, that effort could create 220,000 jobs.

The Church Landing Phase II project, when completed, will add more luxurious guest rooms to the property. Like everything done at the main Church Landing property, the two new buildings will be in an Adirondack style. The names of the buildings will be the Boat House Lodge (with seven new guest rooms) and the Birch Lodge (featuring six new guest rooms). The lodges will be connected to the main Church Landing inn by a covered, rustic walkway stretching the distance between the buildings. (This walkway, once completed, will be vine covered and a wonderful spot for wedding and group photos.)

The Boat House Lodge will feature, as well as the guest rooms, an activity room with a huge stone fireplace constructed by King Brothers Stonework (the company that did many of the fireplaces on the property). The activity room will be huge, with large windows offering expansive views of the lake. The lodge also will feature an indoor/outdoor pool for adults only and two Jacuzzis with nearby folding doors, that when opened up, offer guests a wonderful view of the nearby lake.

In the adjacent Birch Lodge, as in the Boat House Lodge, all guest rooms will have lake views; most rooms will have Jacuzzis in the new construction project, as well as warming fireplaces for added ambiance.

Says Michelle Brown, director of marketing for the Inns and Spa at Mill Falls, “We are already booking guest rooms and there has been a great deal of interest in the Phase II project.”

Once completed, those involved in all portions of the project can look at their work and know they perhaps helped put a fellow American back to work by the effort to use only Made in America products. “While it has taken some effort, this initiative has been well worth the time spent, ”concludes Rusty.

Let’s hope Diane Sawyer is listening. 

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