Local builder aims to construct 100-percent American-made

Foodies can “vote with their dollars” by buying locally grown produce or fair-trade items, and one local homebuilder is proving that builders can put their dollars into something they believe in, as well.

Coastal Point • Monica Scott: This house built by Marie Ousler is made of 94% of American-made materials and products. Ousler hopes to make it 100% in the future.Coastal Point • Monica Scott
This house built by Marie Ousler is made of 94% of American-made materials and products. Ousler hopes to make it 100% in the future.

Inspired by the “Made in America” segment on “ABC World News with Diane Sawyer,” which focuses on U.S. manufacturing, jobs and what it all means for the nation’s economy, local custom home builder Marnie Ousler and homeowners in Middlesex Beach decided to try to see if it is, in fact, financially viable to build a house with 100 percent American-made products.

They found out that it was, or nearly so, at just shy of the completely 100 percent goal. Ousler said her most recent project turned out to be custom-built with 94 percent American-made or
-assembled products. From the framing package to the roofing nails, the materials used to build the house were manufactured in the good ol’ U.S. of A.

“Typically, our framing packages would come from Canada, but it came from the U.S. And the granite would come from South America, but we got it from Virginia. Cabinets would usually come from Canada or Asia, but we got those here, as well.”

She said the hardest thing to find was roofing nails, and they did cost more money, but she said other things were the same or less expensive, so it helped to offset any added expense.

Ousler said she was inspired by the “Made in America” segment to see if she could do it without seeing a major cost difference. The segment featured Montana builder Anders Lewendal, who set out to build a 100 percent American-made house and did so in 2011.

According to the show, Lewendal hoped to have at least one all-American house built in each state, and he said if builders increased the percentage of U.S.-made components in their homes by just 5 percent, the industry could add thousands of new jobs in America — a point with which Ousler agrees.

“As an entrepreneur, it’s your responsibility to help the community.” And to use American-made products, “There is less travel and pollution, and you are helping with local jobs — it’s win-win.”

Ousler started her career working for a real estate agent and then worked in sales for Beazer Homes for two years before starting her company in 2007. Her father, grandfather and great-grandfather all were builders. She said her personal goals are to deliver high-end architectural-style homes with quality finishes.

“I grew up in the industry,” she said. “Sweeping out houses at 12 years old, I didn’t think I would be doing it as an adult…”

Nevertheless, she has built both a business and a name for herself. Homes she has built have been featured in the annual Beach & Bay Cottage Tour, and she has been featured in American Builders Quarterly, MaGrann Associates and Shore Woman. She built the first certified LEED home in Delaware under the U.S Green Building Council’s certification in 2008 in Bethany Beach.

In August, Ousler will attend Duke University to receive a “Cross Continent” MBA, which will focus on entrepreneurship and innovation. She will travel to China, parts of India and Russia to learn how different economies work — something she said can only help her as a business owner.

“It will be interesting to bring that knowledge back to Delaware,” she said.

As for the American-made house, she said it has already taught her a lot about the economy and how it affects other people.

Ousler said her father’s company, based in Southern Maryland, builds 100 to 150 homes per year, and they are going to start trying the American-made model.

“Even raising the question with the bigger builders can help the competition within the United States,” Ousler said. “As an entrepreneur, I have the power to reallocate where I spend my money. We tried it to see if it was financially viable, and it was. It was neat, and I hope it generates momentum with the suppliers and all involved.”