Published Aug. 28, 2013
ORLANDO, Fla. — Wal-Mart’s two-day U.S. manufacturing summit held last week in Orlando yielded news that a handful of suppliers planned to invest more than $70 million in factory growth and create more than 1,000 jobs.
The biggest deal in terms of jobs, though, was announced by Minneapolis-based Element Electronics, which said it planned to make flat panel TVs sold at stores like Wal-Mart, Target and Costco, in an abandoned, 315,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Winnsboro, S.C. The $7.5 million investment is expected to create 500 jobs over the next five years.
“Made in the USA today is as hot as it has ever been globally. This is a huge initiative. We are right in the crosshairs.”
— Mike Briggs, president and CEO of Central SC Alliance
The partnership between South Carolina and Element shows that American renewal in manufacturing is working to create jobs, “drive investment and produce quality American made products for our customers,” said Bill Simon, president and CEO of Wal-Mart U.S. “Through collaboration with Element Electronics we have facilitated discussions at the state level to make their partnership a reality.”
Element’s decision also means that electronics manufacturing jobs — the key to China’s emergence as a manufacturing power — are heading back to the United States.
“As an American company, we felt a responsibility to provide employment opportunities for American workers,” said Mike O’Shaughnessy, founder and president of Element. “None of which would matter if we couldn’t compete on price and quality.”
O’Shaughnessy added that Wal-Mart's backing of the company’s efforts to make TVs on American soil was significant in Element’s plans.
Earlier this year, Wal-Mart said it intended to buy an additional $50 billion in U.S.-made products over the next 10 years. Wal-Mart is the world’s largest retailer with annual sales of $466 billion.
Element began exploring the possibility of reshoring in 2011, and in April 2012 launched a test program at Lotus International’s Canton, Mich., manufacturing facility.
Element found it could produce big TVs — 46-inchers and up — in the U.S. for about as much as one in China because of lower transportation costs and tariffs.
“We verified our math, we tested our supply chain assumptions and we proved to ourselves that American consumers are motivated to buy American products,” said Vlad Kazhdar, Element’s director of product planning.
Element also makes sure consumers know where their TVs are built. The company’s products are packaged in red, white and blue boxes that have “Assembled in the USA” boldly printed on the front.
The Wal-Mart event attracted some 1,500 government officials and executives from 500 supplier companies.
“Right now, companies in America are making and selling products around the world at an all-time record pace, and the incentives to make things here and hire American workers is only getting stronger,” said U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker. “A summit like this one, which brings multiple organizations from the public and private sectors together, is exactly the type of cooperation that’s needed to grow businesses, create jobs and keep America competitive.”
Wal-Mart noted that the economics of manufacturing are making U.S.-made goods increasingly competitive. Furthermore, studies show that consumers are motivated to buy products that are made in the United States.
Other manufacturing projects announced at the summit included:
· GE’s plans to created 150 jobs and invest $30 million investment to produce U.S.-made light bulbs that will be sold exclusively at Wal-Mart stores in the U.S.
· No nonsense, a legwear brand made by Greensboro, N.C.-based Kayser-Roth Corp., will launch a sock initiative with Wal-Mart that will invest $28 million and add more than 100 jobs at the company’s N.C. facilities.
· Renfro, a Mount Airy, N.C.-based, legwear company, plans to invest $14 million and create 195 jobs over the next two years at its plants in Cleveland, Tenn., and Fort Payne, Ala.
Element’s announcement is bound to be heard around the world, said Mike Briggs, president and CEO of Central SC Alliance, an economic development organization that represents 10 Midlands counties.
“Made in the USA today is as hot as it has ever been globally,” Briggs said. “This is a huge initiative. We are right in the crosshairs.”
Reach Chuck Crumbo at 803-726-7542.