U.S. Manufacturing

Making Things – and Making a Difference

Tomorrow, Walmart will welcome hundreds of suppliers and potential suppliers to our headquarters to hear their pitches about new products made, assembled, grown or sourced in the United States. It’s our first Open Call event, and we hope that by opening our doors, we can help open even bigger ones for families and communities across America.
 
With changes in labor and energy costs overseas, it makes sense to make more products closer to the point of consumption. In the U.S., Walmart has pledged to buy an additional $250 billion over 10 years in products that support American manufacturing. By doing so, not only can we bring our customers more great, local products – but our suppliers can bring their communities more jobs.
 

Element Electronics recently opened a TV production facility in Winnsboro, S.C., that is a great example of how a community can be revitalized when new jobs are created. Check out the video for more of their story.

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U.S. Manufacturing

Once Bankrupt, Now Booming: A Small-Town Factory Returns

In 2009, I noticed an odd thing as I stopped to check out a closed-down factory in Wadley, Alabama. The building was clearly vacant, but there were 10-12 people outside mowing and trimming weeds. So I asked them, “Who’s paying you?” “Nobody,” one of them said. “We just love this factory.”

It was clear that this place was once a special part of this town. 

As a manufacturer of patio furniture, I saw this as an opportunity.  Why not use this facility, which had all the equipment — and potential workforce – needed to produce high-quality products? Because the factory was part of a bankruptcy filing, I went before a judge to see about buying it. When I told him my plan to turn the factory into a facility that once again produced American-made products, he slammed his gavel and said, “You got it.”  

Because Walmart’s commitment to U.S. manufacturing allowed for the flexibility of a multi-year deal for Walmart to purchase product from the Wadley facility, we’ve been able to put money into renovations. Currently, we’re spending millions on efficiency upgrades and new equipment.

The factory, which opened in 1963 and was previously owned by another company that produced wrought-iron patio furniture, was the heart of the Wadley community. When you consider that the town’s population is roughly 700, it makes sense that this facility employed a large percentage of its residents. Today, our new patio furniture factory has 200 employees, and I see that number growing by 50-100 in the coming years. That growth can only be a help to the local economy – it’s 200 people who need to eat breakfast and lunch at local restaurants and buy stuff from local merchants on their way home from work.

As part of our reopening of this facility, we’re also able to support educational initiatives in Wadley and throughout Randolph County. Our biggest workforce supplier is a technical school also located in Wadley. We supply the material, and the school trains the welders. We are able to hire skilled workers at various levels, not to mention support these vocation programs for the future. We also house a weekly food bank. We store and supply some of the food and other needs, including allowing space for the distribution of these goods to as many as 100 people per week.

I’m proud to be a part of making a big impact on this small town. 

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U.S. Manufacturing

A Fond Farewell to an American Craftsman

After nearly half a century of making pacifiers and sippy cups, Dick Gates is stepping away this year.

At NUK headquarters in Reedsburg, Wisconsin, Dick Gates has been an integral part of designing and manufacturing baby products since 1970, when he started as a stock handler, and in just a few years, became the youngest supervisor in the company’s history.

He loved being part of a process that guaranteed quality and safety for the mothers and children all over the country, and especially in his own back yard.

“I go to church every Sunday and see my product being used,” he said, proudly.

Understanding the value of what his company was making, Dick dedicated himself to learning the nuts and bolts of the process, going to engineering school and taking night classes until his qualifications allowed him to join the engineering and product development team. He went on to develop the mechanisms that are still being used at NUK right now. Producing thousands of baby products every day, many of which are shipped immediately to Walmart.

With NUK’s dedication to keeping local jobs, and Walmart’s commitment to U.S. manufacturing, Dick gained the peace of mind he had always craved. The assurance that he would always have a job. Knowing he could put down roots in this community, confident that he wouldn’t be pulling his kids out of school and moving to another town.

“Walmart’s not going any place,” he said, “and that gave me an incredible sense of security.”

That feeling of safety allowed Dick to think of NUK headquarters as his second home. And to think of his colleagues as family. 

He enjoys his nine-mile drive every morning, watching the sun come up over the tops of the trees. He’s the first one there every day, so he turns on the lights and starts the coffee pot.

“I’m at work, but I’m at home,” he said.

He says it’s a bittersweet feeling, retiring from the company after 45 wonderful years. But he knows that the products and processes he has developed, as well as the spirit he has invested in this company, will go on for a very long time.

“It’s not just for me.  Not just for my son or my daughter.  It’s for generations to come.”

Dick’s legacy will live on in another very special way. His daughter now works on the assembly line at NUK. The child whose first possession was a NUK baby bottle manufactured by her dad is now carrying on the work of the man who made that bottle with loving care.

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U.S. Manufacturing

Walmart’s Investment in U.S. Manufacturing, Explained

With nearly 260 million customers shopping at a Walmart location each week, it’s clear that the ability to get the right items at the right price is a benefit to many of us.

But providing affordable goods isn’t the only way we aim to make an impact. We’re also heavily invested in the communities we serve. One part of that is our commitment to source an additional $250 billion in products made, assembled or grown in the U.S.

Not only does manufacturing products domestically create jobs – in many cases, it’s more efficient. Manufacturing goods closest to the point of sale allows for quicker turnaround time from factory to shelf. It’s good for business, good for customers and good for our stores.

While products are a big part of this commitment, innovation is another key way we can make a difference. Along with the Walmart Foundation and the U.S. Conference of Mayors, we’re awarding grants for research on ways to make manufacturing easier, such as this project from Cornell University that is helping to turn recycled clothes into new ones.

Here’s a quick look at the key points of our pledge.

On June 28, Walmart will host its U.S. Manufacturing Summit and Open Call for products that support American jobs. Learn more about these two events here.

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Opportunity

Making Good on a Promise to Mom, and Himself

Jason Thackston was ecstatic to start working at a Walmart distribution center in Washington Courthouse, Ohio, nearly six years ago. He’d worked a variety of jobs before but, having never earned his high school diploma, felt his chances for advancement were limited. With Walmart, he saw opportunity – a career path.

That opportunity, combined with Cengage Learning’s Career Online High School program, and a promise he made to his mother at her hospital bedside, motivated him to unlock his full potential. Jason’s mother passed away shortly after, but he kept his promise and – as you’ll see in this video – the results have been transformative.

Career Online High School is one of many offerings we provide associates through Lifelong Learning, Walmart’s continuing education program. Jason’s story is why we do what we do, and serves as an inspiration to all of us.

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