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Westlake Development Group builds a Lake Oswego home using only American made products
by: VERN UYETAKE From left, Gerald Rowlett with Westlake Development Group and homeowner Jerry Kitchen visit the site of Kitchen’s new home on Bonaire Avenue in Lake Oswego.

Recently, contractors in Lake Oswego began their workday raising a large American flag in what looked like a reenactment of the five U.S. servicemen photographed atop Mount Suribachi during World War II.

And this local gesture also claimed territory, in a way. These men, constructing a house on Bonaire Avenue for Westlake Development Group, are using only American products. Every pipe, floorboard, beam, nail, screw, tile - you name it - was made in America - even the light bulbs.

Lightbulb goes off

Westlake Development Group Owner Gerald Rowlett said the idea began after a 'Made in America' Diane Sawyer TV special about the ripple effect of buying goods domestically and each state's specialty goods. Then, Rowlett was further enlightened after an inexpensive lightbulb made in Mexico kept burning out in his own home.

'It wasn't even worth taking back because it was so cheap,' Rowlett said, 'but it just bugged me. How much product is bought disposable because no one wants to deal with it?'

Rowlett presented the idea to build a home entirely of products sourced in America to his clients, Larry Kitchen and Toniya Villalobos, and they all agreed that 'it was the right thing to do,' Rowlett said. The 2,500-square-foot home on a half-acre lot will be completed in mid-April and feature a craftsman look with an open floorplan and three fireplaces.

'When I posed (this idea) to him,' Rowlett said, 'I know we were going to narrow some (material) choices. Not everything you may love is right here in the U.S.'

But, the search to find just the right products close to home has left them with more products than they thought imaginable.

'We had to be specific,' Rowlett said of tracing the origin of each product. 'We had to make sure that our lumber didn't come out of Canada and is just sold locally. Our rebar comes right out of Newberg, and it's recycled material.'

In fact, Rowlett is happy to share his list of materials and post updates on his company's website - http://westlakedevelopmentllc.com.

For example, Rowlett's crew is working with and getting bids from companies such as Rosboro in Springfield, Ore., for laminated timber; Maze Nails in Peoria, Ill. and Hal Steel in Ontario, Calif., for nails; TRM Manufacturing in Corona, Calif., for poly vapor barriers; and Osipro in Mentor, Ohio, for sub-floor adhesive and sealant.

Joining Team America

Getting electricians, plumbers and subcontractors on board with the plan was reassuring, Rowlett said, because it's been a team effort to source products.

'As far as we know,' he said, 'we don't know about another project like this on the West Coast.'

People have told Rowlett that this project sounds like a reality TV show in the making, and he said its concept is something he hopes to repeat with in the future.

'I don't want this to be my only one,' he said. 'It's a pay-it-forward approach. Hopefully there'll be some people next year not collecting unemployment.'

Kitchen agreed, saying he enjoys the 'multiplier effect and spending money in the community because (of) all the jobs you create.'

'We didn't want to say 'we're trying,'' Rowlett said. 'We're doing it.'

'It's important to start locally and work our way out.' Rowlett said. 'I'll go to the local ACE before I go to the big box (store). We've all got a choice. We've got a choice to create a job today, here, or to create somebody's job on the other side of the ocean.'



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