Walmart doesn't want Americans to forget that it is pushing to bring manufacturing jobs back to the U.S. Last year the company pledged to buy $50 billion more in American-made goods over the next decade than it does now. Yesterday, before an audience at the U.S. Conference of Mayors Meeting in the nation's capital, the company announced it was creating a new $10 million fund to encourage innovation in American manufacturing. Walmart and the Walmart Foundation will fund the five-year program.
"If we want to grow manufacturing and help rebuild America's middle class, we need the brightest minds in our universities, in our think tanks, and in our towns to tackle obstacles to U.S. manufacturing," said Bill Simon, president and CEO of Walmart U.S. "The $10 million fund will identify and award leaders in manufacturing innovation and help us all work together to create opportunity."
Walmart, citing Boston Consulting as a source, said its added investments in buying goods produced in the U.S. will create one million new jobs in manufacturing and related services.
The retailer also announced one early success of its efforts with a current supplier, Kent Bicycles, moving production from overseas to a facility in Clarendon, SC. Once it has reached full capacity, estimated to be in 2016, the company will have added 175 jobs. The company, based in Parsippany, NJ, expects to start production in the fall.
"Our company moved all manufacturing overseas in 1990 because it was so much more cost effective. When Walmart made its commitment to U.S. manufacturing last year, it opened our eyes to restarting some manufacturing here," said Arnold Kamler, owner of Kent Bicycles. "We attended Walmart's August manufacturing summit and were able to focus our efforts quickly and make things happen with South Carolina."
"Those that have already taken the risk to move or expand manufacturing in the U.S. tell us they are experiencing a first-mover advantage — a significant leg-up in terms of market-share and momentum," said Mr. Simon.
Walmart plans to hold a second manufacturing summit this August in Denver. One of the major goals of this year's event will be to connect manufacturers with factories.
"Many factories aren't operating at full capacity. By working together, we have an opportunity to repurpose or help add production to some of these communities," said Mr. Simon. "This will help rebuild the American supply chain to support U.S. manufacturing and create more jobs."
Walmart said its research has found that 72 percent of its suppliers believe producing goods in the U.S. will become cost favorable within four years. The retailer said 40 if its departments are in discussions with suppliers to bring manufacturing jobs to the U.S.
How effective has Walmart been in promoting itself as a champion of American jobs?