Firetruck visits Hilton Head during cross-country 'Buy American' tour

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Firetruck visits Hilton Head during cross-country 'Buy American' tour

By BRIAN HEFFERNAN
bheffernan@islandpacket.com
Published Wednesday, January 30, 2013   |  497 Words  |  

Aaron Lorell is traveling the country in pursuit of an American dream of sorts.

And at each stop, he's taking up two parking spaces.

Or, sometimes, a fire lane.

After Lorell lost his job two months ago in California, he flew to New Jersey, bought a firetruck and started a cross-country journey with a friend. Their goal is to make American-made products easier to buy.

To accomplish that, Lorell proposes that big-box retailers like Walmart create aisles that carry only American-made goods, just as grocers reserve aisles for organic foods.

Lorell calls them "patriot zones."

"Everybody really wants to support their country ... but when it's going to change your shopping time from a half-hour to three hours to try to read the fine print (on labels), time just necessitates that people skip it," Lorell said.

His "Made in American Fire Truck Tour" started about a month ago from his hometown of Hopewell, N.J. He was joined by his friend Tim Morris in Washington, D.C. They have continued down the East Coast and have stopped the 30-foot firetruck on Hilton Head Island for a few days to spread the message.

The 1971 Mack fire engine might average only 5 miles per gallon and top out at 50 mph, but Lorell said it captures the American spirit and draws attention.

The pair use the truck and its slogan-bearing signs to gather grassroots support and plant the idea in people's minds, rather than confront the large retailers.

Outside the Walmart on Hilton Head on Wednesday, resident Paulette Giroux said she would buy from an American-made aisle because it would "help put our people to work."

"That's what we need to make our economy better," she said.

Ian Gudgeon, an island transplant from Yorkshire, England, said he would purchase products from the aisle as long as they didn't cost much more than foreign-made items.

"A few cents more, that's one thing," Gudgeon said. "But dollars -- I don't know. It's got to be competitive."

A Walmart spokesman said that individual stores are allowed to highlight and group products. Two-thirds of the store's products are manufactured, grown or partly-made in the U.S., the spokesman said.

The retail giant announced this month it would buy an additional $50 billion in American-made products over the next decade.

Lorell said he didn't want to take credit for the decision.

Walmart's spokesman said he shouldn't.

The next stop on the cross-country tour is Savannah. Lorell and Morris leave today.

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