Sign Up For Updates

Manufacturing is the engine that made America prosperous.

Modern manufacturing will play a pivotal role in our long-term economic vitality.

Welcome to


WeatherTech: Telling an Inspirational Story about Manufacturing

  • May 14, 2014

If you have seen television or print ads for WeatherTech auto floor liners, you are not alone. The company is advertising on prime-time television and in more than 100 publications. Moreover, they’re doing more than advertising a product line. Rather, they are telling a story – a compelling and inspirational story about manufacturing in America.

“At WeatherTech, we are doing our part for the American economy.” says company founder David MacNeil, “My philosophy is that if my neighbor doesn’t have a job, sooner or later, I won’t have a job.” The company used to make floor mats in England and ship them to the U.S., but transferred manufacturing back to the U.S. in 2007, long before reshoring became a topic of daily conversation.

The theme of the ads is this: Experts told them they could not make products in American factories with skilled U.S. workers and American raw materials, but WeatherTech has proven the experts wrong.

WeatherTech’s business model appears to be working well. Their auto accessories are custom-measured and made with state-of-the-art manufacturing equipment for a precise fit in the consumer’s car. Their products are available through more than 3,000 distributors. Perhaps most important, U.S. consumers can feel good about purchasing them, knowing that they are supporting American jobs and a company that emphasizes sustainability in its operations.

McNeil is quick to note that not only are his products made in America, but that the raw materials come from the U.S. Most of the computer numeric control (CNC) mills they use were manufactured in Oxnard, California, by Haas; and their injection molding equipment is assembled in Canada, using North American parts. They also purchase warehouse racking, forklifts and other equipment that is made in America.

Headquartered in Bolingbrook, Illinois, the company has about 1,000 employees, who also make rooftop cargo carriers, mud flaps, and other accessories.


Kent Bicycles: Reshoring Bike Production to South Carolina

  • April 11, 2014

Kent Bicycles is investing $4.3 million to construct a bicycle manufacturing facility in Clarendon County, South Carolina. The new factory, which is expected to bring 175 jobs to the region, is part of WalMart’s U.S. Manufacturing initiative. The retailer has pledged to buy $50 billion more from U.S. manufacturers by 2024 than it does now, with a goal of helping to strengthen the middle class.

About 500,000 bicycles will be manufactured each year at the new plant. They will be delivered to WalMart, ToysRUs and other retailers about 90 percent assembled, according to Kent Bicycles, which is based in New Jersey. Kent was founded in 1958, and since the 1990s, all of its bikes were made overseas. Arnold Kamler, the CEO, recently said that labor costs in China are rising (a note sounded by many manufacturers). That makes U.S. production less expensive, comparatively, than it was 10 to 20 years ago. So as global sales grew, Kent began to consider whether it could open a U.S. factory in addition to the one in China. 

Manufacturing is a high priority in South Carolina, which has specialized in recruiting manufacturers like Kent. Since January 2011, the state has attracted more than $12.4 billion in capital investment and 31,000 jobs in the manufacturing sector. Kent Bicycles considered several states for its U.S. plant, and weighed the incentives it was offered, along with other factors. Among the reasons Kent chose South Carolina are its deepwater ports, high connectivity by highway to major population centers, and its right-to-work policies, all of which help make it an easy state in which to do business.

Footwear Industries of Tennessee: Bootmaking Returns to the United States

  • April 1, 2014

You don’t have to live in the Lone Star state of Texas to appreciate a good pair of boots. Around North America, there are boot lovers in every generation, every state and province, and in every walk of life. Very few of the shoes Americans wear are made in the U.S., and that is not likely to change anytime soon. But for the first time in many years, a new, large-scale shoemaking factory has opened here.

The factory is in Tennessee and the manufacturer is an Australia-based company known as Merchant House International. The company has made shoes and boots in Tianjin, China and shipped them to the U.S. for many years. Yet, in recent years, their experience in China has been mixed. Labor costs have risen, as have raw materials costs. Moreover, currency policies, which for so many years helped China build its manufacturing base, are now somewhat less favorable for manufacturers in China, as well. These policy changes come as China strives to encourage growth of its consumer economy.

The plant in Jefferson County, Tennessee, is 40,000 square feet and will employ more than 100 workers. It is located in an old BAE factory within an existing industrial park. An estimated $5.4 million in equipment is being installed, some of it imported from Germany, to give it a capability of producing 5 million pairs of shoes annually. State and local government authorities provided incentives to help cement the deal.

The Tennessee division of the firm will be known as Footwear Industries of Tennessee, or FIT for short. Its product lines will include casual and industrial boots, and will continue to be carried in many U.S. retail chains.

Harrington Hoists: The Importance of Behind-the-Scenes Product Manufacturing

  • February 9, 2014

You bought the tickets several months ago, and the night is finally here. You are at the theatre to see an off-Broadway production that has received rave reviews, or at an arena to hear one of your all-time favorite bands. There is an atmosphere of expectation as you check your watch and see that it is time for the show to start. Suddenly, the curtain opens and the production is under way.

Few, if any, of us would give a second thought to how the curtain was opened. But opening stage curtains reliably is a primary concern for a company called Harrington Hoists, which has its U.S. headquarters in Manheim, Pennsylvania; and two other factories in Corona, California, and Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania. The latter facility, affectionately called their E-Town plant, is making products previously produced in Japan, where the parent company, Kito Corporation, is based. And stage curtains for concert halls, arenas, and theatres only scratch the surface of the hoist products that their workforce makes.

Beyond entertainment-center applications, Harrington produces manual, electric, air-chain and wire-rope hoists, as well as complete crane systems, most of which are used in advanced industrial settings. Capacity ranges from one-eighth of a ton to 20 tons or more. As one satisfied customer, Stu Fenton of Ritz-Craft Homes, put it, “We have chosen Harrington because of the precision we require at the placement of any component.” He said their products allow for “smooth movement of our mammoth floor, wall and roof systems by giving us better weight distribution of our loads and the headroom we need for flexibility.” Put another way, Harrington’s manufactured goods make other manufacturers more productive and capable.  

Back to the entertainment industry, Harrington has developed a new product called the TNER theatrical hoist that gives set designers and stage crews more flexibility for a variety of venues. Harrington says the hoist, which is housed in a durable aluminum exterior, incorporates the world’s most reliable brake, and the simple design means there is no coil to fail or disc to wear out. After a performance, it can easily be packed and sent to the next venue on the tour.

The company traces its history to the year 1854, when a machinist in Vermont named Edwin Harrington founded his machine tool business. He moved the operations to the Philadelphia area a few years later, and began focusing exclusively on the hoist market in 1867, just two years after the conclusion of the Civil War. Ownership changed hands several times in the decades that followed, with Kito purchasing it in 1990. The California facility opened in 1993, and is now three times its original size.

Whether a hoist is being used in an advanced-manufacturing factory or in a 20,000-seat arena, it is a great example of a “behind-the-scenes” product that makes up an important segment of manufacturing in North America.

MasterLock: A New Lock Every 2.1 Seconds

  • January 18, 2014

MasterLock received international attention in early 2012 when President Obama lauded the Milwaukee-based company for creating 100 new jobs there, rather than at their production facilities in China or Mexico. The President’s remarks came in conjunction with an event he hosted called the Insourcing American Jobs Forum. In addition to MasterLock, manufacturers highlighted included Ford Motor, Rolls-Royce, Chesapeake Bay Candle Company, and Keen Footwear, among others.

For MasterLock, the choice to expand production and create jobs in Milwaukee was made possible by industrial automation investments at the Milwaukee facility that have helped it stay price-competitive with the company’s international plants.

The production of a combination lock today is extraordinarily automated. At the impressive Milwaukee plant, parts are placed in an advanced machine, which then churns out a fully assembled new lock every 2.1 seconds. That means a single machine can make about 1,740 locks in a single hour. Before the automation, it took about 20 employees to make each lock. Now it requires a fraction of that total to program, manage and maintain a machine. The factory now produces twice as many locks as it did in 2009, when it commenced its technology upgrades, even though it employs fewer workers. Many of the newer jobs require advanced computer-related skills.

MasterLock has re-engineered many of its products. For example, bicycle locks are more effective and versatile than those from a generation ago. Similarly, at a web URL called, commercial and industrial purchasers can choose the keying, weatherability, size, and laser engraving options best suited for their unique security applications. MasterLock also provides software products for uses like locker-room management.

The company, which has been a subsidiary of Fortune brands since the Sixties, is investing in network systems to allow sales data from stores to be transmitted directly to plants in real time, providing detail such as the type, size, and color of locks being sold. This data will allow sound production decisions to be made more quickly. To build the durable network needed to generate, track, and safeguard the data, MasterLock has partnered with Rockwell Automation and Cisco Systems on routers and ports that can withstand high temperatures.

Since its founding in 1921, MasterLock has, in a sense, been a part of American culture. Harry Houdini posed in a MasterLock in 1925. Three years later, their locks were used in enforcement efforts during Prohibition. The company exhibited at the World’s Fair in Chicago in 1933, and introduced its first combination lock two years later. Its staff worked 24-7, seven days a week, to support the war effort in the early Forties. The three-foot cable lock was introduced as customers became more mobile in the Sixties. Its products were used on the U.S.S. Wisconsin battleship in 1988, and the company implemented an assertive environmental plan in 1991. In the context of that history, the recent investment in industrial automation is just another example of the innovation that has helped MasterLock become an iconic brand with manufacturing facilities in the U.S. and abroad.  

Caterpillar: Reshoring to America

  • December 17, 2013

In the early-to-mid 2000s, U.S. companies were off-shoring manufacturing production to China at an extremely aggressive rate. Part of the trend was tied to getting a foothold in the quickly growing Chinese consumer and B2B markets. But much of the off-shoring trend was simply tied to taking advantage of that country’s low labor costs.

By 2012, many of these companies were taking a more balanced view of production in China. Labor costs there have escalated. Trans-Pacific shipping costs have not gotten any cheaper, and intellectual property protection concerns about China persist. Some companies began running the numbers and were surprised to find that the cost advantage of producing in China was actually only about 10 percent. Once they factored in travel costs and supply-chain delays, these companies began to conclude that in some instances, it makes sense to re-shore some of that production in the U.S.

Caterpillar is a case in point. A truly global company, Cat will likely always have an R&D and manufacturing presence in China. But for the production of hydraulic excavators, which weigh from 12 to 49 tons and are costly to ship, it made sense to do that work in the U.S. Caterpillar opened a state-of-the-art, 1.1 million square foot factory in Victoria, Texas, at a cost of $200 million. Employment there started at 225 new positions, with more added as production ramps up and demand grows. Employment could reach as high as 800 jobs.

The excavators had been produced in Akashi, Japan, and Aurora, Illinois. The company is now using those facilities for other projects, while enjoying the benefits of serving the North American market for those machines from one modern facility in Victoria. Customers for the excavators run the gamut of industries from mining to oil drillers to cement producers to construction.

States compete for major capital investment of this type, and Texas Gov. Rick Perry was quick to note that his state’s low taxes, reasonable regulations, fair courts, and skilled workforce are instrumental in attracting world-class employers. To Perry’s point, the more the U.S. adopts policies at the national level that make the U.S. an attractive place to invest, the greater momentum the emerging reshoring movement is likely to see.

From 2011 to 2013, Cat opened or modernized a dozen of its facilities in the U.S., taking advantage of the gradual improvement in the economy.

The Boston Consulting Group says the industries most likely to see reshoring to the U.S. in the next few years include computers and electronics, machinery, appliances, electrical equipment, and furniture. Given the importance of manufacturing to any country’s economy, that is good news for the U.S.

Patriot Porcelain: Bringing Jobs Back to a Vacant Plant

  • October 19, 2013

In 2007, a Globe Union Group porcelain products factory in Kokomo, Indiana was shut down as its production was off-shored to China. At the time, the cost of manufacturing a toilet in the U.S. was roughly twice the cost of doing so in China.

Six years later, thanks to improved automated-production technology here and rising labor costs in China, making the products in the U.S. is once again price-competitive. A new company, Patriot Porcelain, in October 2013 announced plans to reopen the facility in 2014 and create 140 production, management, and engineering jobs. That is great news for a city that had seen several plant closures in recent years.

Patriot is investing $16 million to modernize the plant with 10 new presses, more than a dozen robots, and new conveyer belts. Injection molding will replace the old practice of hand-filled molding. The 330,000 square foot plant will ultimately operate continuously on a seven-day, three-shift schedule, and will produce up to 425,000 pieces porcelain toilets and sinks per year.

In order to secure financing needed for the new equipment, Patriot negotiated five-year contracts to supply a pair of wholesalers, Gerber Plumbing Fixtures and Niagra Faucets. Eager to see the plant be modernized and reopened, the State of Indiana and the City of Kokomo also provided incentives. The distributors, Gerber and Niagra, will benefit as well, as the modernized plant will supply them with products faster, thereby shortening delivery-time cycles.

The Patriot Porcelain example is a Great Manufacturing Story that reshoring advocates hope to see play out across the U.S. repeatedly in the coming years.