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State Lawmaker Calls For American Made American Flags

Florida's Vietnam War Memorial
Nick Evans

There’s a U.S. flag and the state flag of Florida flying over the historic Capitol, and they’re waving at the top of two flagpoles framing the entrance to the new Capitol, too.  And a state lawmaker wants to ensure they’re made in America from American materials.

Freshman Rep. Robert Cortes (R-Maitland) has pushed his All-American Flag Act through three committees to the House floor.  After running from another hearing Thursday, Cortes was a bit winded as he introduced the bill at its last stop in the Local and Federal Affairs committee. 

“House Bill 225 is a simple one-page bill that requires any united states or state flag that is purchased by the state, the county or the municipality for public use made in the united states from articles or materials or supplies that grown, produced and manufactured in the United States,” Cortes said.

It should come as no surprise his bill passed all three of its committees unanimously.  But while it’s easy to find patriotism among elected officials with the flag literally pinned to their lapel, there are economic reasons for buying things made overseas: they’re cheaper.  With Gov. Rick Scott continually talking about treating government more like a business shouldn’t the economics be considered? 

Cortes concedes American-made flags are more expensive—but just barely.

“Actually, the flags we buy here at the Capitol—4’x8’ flag, which is a standard flag—costs about $25.16, and the ones that I’ve been able to find on the Internet, Chinese made, is about $24.70,” Cortes says.

“So, about a 46 cent difference per flag,” he concludes.

That’s less than an extra shot at Starbucks.   Less than buying a song on iTunes. That’s even less than what a can of Coke used to cost. 

But what about big flags?

Across the street from the state Capitol is a monument with two black marble towers about 40 feet tall.  Suspended between them is a huge American flag—15 feet by 28 feet.  This is the Florida Vietnam War Memorial.  The site is administered by the state’s Department of Management Services, and the flag is American-made.  It costs about $500, and the state gets these ones from Liberty Flags in Tulsa, Oklahoma. 

Charlotte Zakharian, is a part-owner of Liberty Flags, and she says the flag at the memorial is what’s known as a garrison flag—that is, it’s really big. 

Garrison flags typically come in standard sizes like 15’x25’ or 20’x30’—even 30’x60’.  But she explains the flag at the memorial is a custom size, and it uses different hardware so it can be displayed vertically.  And Zakharian says she’s not familiar with any foreign made garrison-sized flags.

“I don’t know of anyone that makes anything out of this country that that’s large in an American flag,” Zakharian says.

And even if the state officials did want to cut corners by purchasing the flag from a foreign manufacturer—and just to be clear, they don’t—Zakharian says she can’t speak to whether that would actually save them any money.

“Well, fortunately,” she says, “and I say fortunately because I really believe this, I don’t have any experience with what it’s going to have—what cost difference there’s going to be in manufacturing that flag overseas, because we don’t sell any flags that have been made overseas.”

When you factor in the life of the flag and the cost of shipping it may be that American-made flags end up being cheaper in the long run.  Add in the economic impact on the state—for instance, Cortes says the flags flying at the Capitol come from a South Florida manufacturer who employs veterans—and it’s not hard to see why lawmakers like it.  The House will likely take up the issue in its next session on Thursday.