While U.S. manufacturing jobs were once the backbone of the American economy, they began declining around three decades ago. Lately, though, that trend appears to be slowly reversing for a pile of reasons.
Just a few: Labor costs are rising overseas, high energy and transportation costs often offset any labor savings that do exist, and U.S.-specific skill sets are increasingly in demand.
Plus, bringing back jobs — what experts call “reshoring” or “insourcing” — is a great way to snag some good, patriotic press. Despite plenty of signals that we are on our way to a recovery, the unemployment rate remains stubbornly high … and as a result, any company that demonstrates a concerted effort to create or bring back jobs is applauded.
Several big-time blue chips have made those kinds of headlines so far this year, and with America’s birthday right around the corner, there seems no better time to cheer on those moves. So, let’s take a look at five reshoring leaders so far this year:
Ford (F) first made headlines in 2011 when it struck a four-year labor agreement that added 12,000 new U.S. manufacturing jobs, many of which were brought back home from Mexico, China and Japan.
More recently Ford has been pouring money into its Flat Rock plant in Michigan, where the company will build the all-new 2013 Ford Fusion — recently named “Green Car of the Year.” This is the first time the car will be built in the U.S. Plus, the plant will also be churning out the next-generation Mustang, and maybe even the full-size Lincoln MKS after that.
Earlier in April, the company announced it was starting the hiring of 400 new employees for Flat Rock, part of a 1,400-worker addition announced back in December 2012. For all of 2013, Ford plans to add 3,500 hourly jobs.
Another big manufacturing name investing in new plants and thus, new jobs: Caterpillar (CAT). The company broke ground on a new plant in Athens, Ga. last year — a facility to insource previously Japanese-made products like small tractors and excavators.
And earlier this year, the first American employees finally got to work in it.
Back in March, 50 workers moved into the 850,000-square-foot facility — the first and admittedly small step in a five-year production plan. That groundbreaking group makes up less than 4% of the total workforce that will soon call the plant home.
Still, Caterpillar is far from patriotically perfect. While the new Georgia plants have gotten their fair share of press, you can’t overlook the two new Chinese facilities that opened even more recently, and the fact the company has been vocal about plans to continue research and development activities there.
When it comes to getting big-time press over American jobs, Tim Cook takes the prize. Late last year, he publicly announced plans to bring Apple’s (AAPL) Mac line’s manufacturing stateside during interviews with NBC and Bloomberg Businessweek.
No wonder, though. The maker of iPods, iPhones, iPads and more has taken its fair share of heat for offshoring practices in the past — especially in regards to the suicides and shutdowns at Foxconn facilities in China.
If you read past the all-America headlines, though, you’d have seen that Apple’s budget for U.S. Mac production was a mere $100 million — pennies and dimes to the tech giant.
Plus, Cook still believes Chinese workers are more skilled in terms of modern manufacturing — the reason he isn’t bringing all its jobs home.
Nonetheless, it’s a step in the right direction.
Google (GOOG) is giving Apple a run for its money, though. The tech giant debuted a “Made in the U.S.A.” Nexus Q — spherical streaming entertainment device — long before its rival began making insourcing headlines.
The company was quiet about its debut — pointing to the benefits of having design and engineering facilities near one another — but it didn’t stop there.
Back in March, for example, sources began reporting that Google plans to manufacture its highly anticipated Google Glass eyewear right in Santa Clara, Calif.
On top of that, the “do no evil” company also announced plans to unveil a new Moto X smartphone — the result of last year’s Motorola acquisition — later this year. The gadget will be made near Fort Worth, Texas, and will mean the creation of around 2,000 jobs.
What do you get when you mix General Electric (GE), $1 billion and appliances? A whole lotta reshoring.
GE announced in 2010 plans to invest $1 billion to transform its U.S. appliance business. Since then, it has hired 3,000 employees at Louisville’s legendary Appliance Park — including 2,500 in 2012 alone — thanks to the opening of two new assembly lines.
Those were the first new lines open in 55 years, and they finally began producing high efficiency frontload washing machines and dryers back in April.
In all, GE has created more than 15,500 jobs in 20 different states since 2009.
As of this writing, Alyssa Oursler did not own a position in any of the aforementioned securities.