Wal-Mart Pushes ‘Made in America’ at Summit – ABC News. This article is from the Associated Press from writers Anne D’Innocenzio and Mike Schneider, August 22, 2013. A two day summit at the Orange Convention Center in Orlando, Florida, hosted by the National Retail Federation and spearheaded by Wal-Mart has just concluded on August 23, 2013. This summit is an effort to bring together retailers, suppliers and government so they can figure out how to bring more manufacturing jobs to the United States.
Summit Organized by Wal-Mart
Wal-Mart, seven months ago, had pledged to buy $50 billion more U.S. made goods over the next decade. That is the equivalent of just more than 10 percent of what Wal-Mart will sell at retail this year. Wal-Mart said that if other merchants do the same, it would mean an additional $500 billion in American-made goods over the next decade. Wal-Mart is hoping the summit can capitalize on this commitment.
On the first day of the summit, which went from 1 to 4pm, featured three speakers: 1) Penny Pritzker, Commerce Secretary of the U.S. (see the prepared remarks by Ms. Pritzker on this link); 2) Governor of Florida, Rick Scott; and 3) Bill Simon, CEO of Wal-Mart. The second day of the summit featured one on one meetings with manufacturers, suppliers and state officials (including some state governors) to talk about U.S. manufacturing. Some 300 meetings were scheduled.
Several companies were quick to get into the spirit at the summit. Kayser-Roth, a North Carolina based legwear manufacturer and Renfro, a sock manufacturer announced investment into the U.S. at $30 million and $10 million respectively. General Electric also announced $30 million investment at its plants in Circleville, OH, Bucyrus, OH, and Mattoon, Ill. “We wanted to be a part of this,” Jeff Immelt, CEO of GE said. “This is a first step.”
The Reason for the Summit
Some critics of Wal-Mart call this summit simply a public relations ploy, like the pledge to buy more U.S. made goods. Wal-Mart has had quite a bit of criticism regarding the plight of American manufacturing and outsourcing as many feel that Wal-Mart led the migration of manufacturing jobs overseas in search of the cheapest labor, and severely veering from the principles of its late founder Sam Walton, who espoused buying American-made goods.
Wal-Mart is also being constantly attacked as a destroyer of U.S. jobs rather than a creator, by not only putting thousands of small businesses out of business, but, also, by paying its workers minimum wage (or slightly above) and excluding many benefits by rarely making employees full-time.
These on-going criticisms, plus some recent news over this past year, which names Wal-Mart as the most guilty corporation that is responsible for deplorable working conditions that have lead to unnecessary deaths of 112 Tarzeen factory workers killed in a fire in Bangladesh on November, 29 2012 and the Rana building collapse which killed over a 1,129 factory workers on April, 24 2013, also in Bangladesh, have caused bad press for Wal-Mart. Then, on top of these tragedies, Wal-Mart, which owns 279 factories in Bangladesh, failed to sign a agreement with a coalition of European retailers that promised to clean up Bangladesh factory conditions, by mandating independent safety inspections with public reports and mandatory repairs with the cost of repairs being picked up by the Western retailers. Instead, Wal-Mart formed its own coalition with other U.S. corporations, like Macy’s, The Gap, Target, and signed an agreement to look into the conditions in Bangladesh, while at the same time, trying to keep their corporations free of any liabilities inflicted by the vendors that they employ. Wal-Mart’s approval has drastically dropped. Some people have even started to refer to Wal-Mart as “China Mart.” So, yes, Wal-Mart does need a public relations boost.
The Effect of the Summit
Experts say, even if Wal-Mart is successful in getting key retailers and suppliers on board, it won’t rejuvenate the U.S. manufacturing industry. But the movement could stem the tide of jobs flowing to China and elsewhere that has been occurring in the last two decades. “It took two decades to unwind the American manufacturing base and it will take two decades to bring it back,” says Burt Flickinger III, president of retail consultancy Strategic Resource Group.
I agree that this summit will not have a great effect, however, I think it is very important that U.S. companies have come together, in that they realize this may be a tipping point for American manufacturing. Plus, the fact that this is “news”, may get more people thinking about buying “Made in the USA” products. As far as summits go, this Orlando summit is the small summit. In fact, there is a larger and more official summit coming up later this year. This summit is called SelectUSASummit.com, it will be held on October 31st and November 1, 2013 at the Marriott Wardman Park, Washington, D.C. This first of its kind summit is a National level engagement intended to connect businesses and investors around the world with U.S. economic development organizations at the state, regional and local levels. The SelectUSASummit is part of a U.S. government-wide initiative to promote direct investment in the United States. This is hosted by the U.S. Department of Commerce. Speakers include Secretary of State, John Kerry; Jack Lew, Secretary of the Treasury; Penny Pritzker, Secretary of Commerce; and Mike Froman – Ambassador, U.S. Trade Representative. Pre-register for the summit for $395. Maybe we will see you out there. Buy American.