In today's NPR Democratic Presidential Candidate Debate, the candidates were asked, "Will you be buying your family toys made in China?"
Christopher Dodd replied "My toys are coming from Iowa!"
An obvious joke, but we thought the reality behind this comment deserved a second look. The only Iowa Toy manufacturer we know of is a tiny company called Scale Model Toys of Dyersville, IA. (I'm sure there's also a few other hobby toymakers or local Amish or Amana Colonies shops. Scale Model is the only company I know that sells to toy stores like us.)
They make die cast farm toys--we've carried their Farmall tractor in the past. (We kind of stopped by from them a couple of years ago because we had trouble getting an updated price list or getting through to a live person when we called.) Scale Model Toys was started by Joseph Ertl--from the same family that founded Ertl Toys in the 1940's.
To this day, Ertl is the far larger company, selling to Wal-Mart, Target and others under the names Ertl and RC2. Ertl stopped manufacturing in Iowa in the 1990's. They now manufacture mostly in China.
You may be familiar with some of RC2/Ertl's products. One of their most popular brands is Thomas the Tank Engine.
So, we recommend to Christopher Dodd that he can still buy (with some persistence) farm toys made in Iowa. In the meantime, what are we going to do to prevent another debacle like Thomas the Tank Engine? And how can we nurture American toy makers in a age of mass merchandisers like Wal-Mart? That's the question we'd like to have answered.
And hey--if anyone knows of other Iowa toymakers, let us know!