A great deal of attention has been given in the media and the political world to the notion of "bring back manufacturing" to the United States.
Ask yourself: "Why would an astute corporate executive, whose only two motivations are the increase in value of the stock for the stockholders and the increase in their own compensation place a factory in an area where labor costs are 5-10 times the cost of offshore labor?"
The correct answer based on my 40 plus years of experience working in manufacturing and creating manufacturing jobs in the Lehigh Valley is:
It's not going to happen.
Not for a long time and not in the way that most of the talking heads portray it. The old style, high production, heavy manufacturing jobs are gone and will not return.
Now, one can choose to believe the words of politicians and pundits who have lots of opinions about bringing manufacturing jobs back but have never started or managed a manufacturing company in their lives, or one can choose to believe the words presented here by a successful manufacturing job creator.
High quality manufacturing jobs can return to Lehigh County, but these jobs will be unrecognizable from the types of work that my coal miner grandfather once knew. The new world of manufacturing in the United States will come in the following forms:
Educated and highly trained personnel operating extremely sophisticated equipment such as the multi-axis, computer controlled machine on my home page, recently commissioned at Exigo Manufacturing.
Groundbreaking technology products in areas such as alternative energy/energy storage, medical devices, and information technology.
Small startup incubator companies created through the innovative energy of our young entrepreneurs conceiving new products that have yet to be invented.
What do the above forms have in common?
In order to take advantage of these new forms of manufacturing, our community must be committed to supporting high quality educational systems as the core foundation of a thriving manufacturing culture, otherwise such opportunities will go elsewhere.
And since any good manufacturing organization grows through the improvement and promotion of its workforce, entry level positions are critical to successful growth. The potential supply of entry level workers available by concentrating technical education on our unemployed youth can be a gold mine resource, one of many resources needed to nurture a strong manufacturing environment.
Community support in the form of resources such as attractive financing, inexpensive workspace, capable and available workforce will be prerequisites for such a vision.