In 2010, when Liberty Bottle Works opened its factory in Yakima, Washington, producing BPA-free aluminum water bottles in America, co-founder Ryan Clark got excited when he realized it was finally happening: “We make stuff here,” he said, laughing.
Clark and co-founder Tim Andis set out to make water bottles, and keep 100 percent of the production in the United States — which they did: They built a brand-new factory in Yakima, had all the machinery in the factory custom-made in the U.S., and sourced all the materials and parts for their bottles inside the country. The aluminum used in the bottles is recycled (and the bottles themselves are recyclable) and comes from Manitowoc, Wisconsin, the outsets that hold the caps on come from Colorado, and the bottle caps are produced down the street in Yakima.
“We have to create jobs in this country, or we’re screwed,” Clark says. “And the only way to do that is manufacturing.” Clark will point out that manufacturers whose water bottles are produced in overseas factories are “shipping air” across the ocean when they send their empty bottles here to be sold. Clark and Andis believe the only way to be truly green from a manufacturing standpoint is to have their facility in the U.S., where they can watch over it and ensure their sustainability practices are being carried out. “When you have open visibility and anyone can walk in and see what you do, there’s nowhere to hide,” Clark says.
Liberty’s two-year-old operation is funded completely by private capital — the company had difficulty finding a bank that would loan money for a U.S. manufacturing operation, Clark says. After building the production facility in Yakima, he had difficulty finding American-made work shirts that didn’t cost $50 more per shirt than their imported counterparts.
“It shouldn’t cost more to make it here,” Clark says. “It should cost more to make it better.”
Patriotism is an obvious tenet of the company’s philosophy: Liberty’s line of 24- and 32-ounce bottles includes a “Freedom” line, six bottles powder-coated with iconic American graphics, including Rosie the Riveter, the snake from the Gadsden (“Don’t Tread On Me”) flag, and the American Flag. And when hiring staff, “we openly discriminate,” Clark says. “We give preference to anyone who serves.” He estimates 35 percent of Liberty’s 50 employees are active military or retired military. One percent of the company’s overall sales go to charitable organizations, and 1 percent of all sales from the military-themed Pro Collection go to the Special Operations Warrior Foundation,which provides scholarships, grants and counseling to surviving children of special ops personnel who die in the line of duty.