[Image above] Credit: Kārlis Dambrāns; Flickr CC BY 2.0
During last year’s election, we watched as politicians promised the return of manufacturing jobs to the U.S.
But bringing back manufacturing jobs is a little more complicated than what politicians would have us believe. There are dozens of reasons why companies offshore many of their jobs in the first place. Perhaps if they took the time to do the math, they would realize that, in many cases, it would make sense to keep jobs here in the U.S.
And of the 5 million+ manufacturing jobs that have been lost between 2000 and 2010, many of those losses were due to technology—think robots and automation—rather than offshoring.
When Apple announced the creation of a $1 billion fund to support and promote advanced manufacturing jobs in the U.S., it was a positive sign that companies might be willing to invest in developing talent right here at home. And that’s a good thing.
Apple’s latest announcement of its $200 million investment in Corning’s manufacturing facility in Harrodsburg, Ky., solidified its commitment to U.S. manufacturing. The Harrodsburg plant has been churning out screens made of Gorilla Glass for Apple iPhones since 2007. And although a majority of Gorilla Glass is made overseas near Apple’s other suppliers, the Harrodsburg facility is where Corning’s researchers develop and fine-tune their ideas and processes.
“This partnership started 10 years ago with the very first iPhone, and today every customer that buys an iPhone or iPad anywhere in the world touches glass that was developed in America,” Apple’s COO Jeff Williams stated in a company press release.
The partnership may have begun in 2007, but Apple, like a wayward boyfriend, had a brief relationship a few years ago when it inked a deal with sapphire manufacturer GT Advanced Technologies (GTAT). GTAT contracted with Apple to make sapphire screens for Apple’s products. After that relationship soured, Apple appears to have put a ring on Corning’s finger with its $200 million investment. Now that’s commitment.
“A chapter that will not only enable next-generation mobile consumer electronics, but also sustain and create high-value manufacturing jobs,” Corning CEO Wendell Weeks said in his company’s press release.
Corning is sitting pretty well in this relationship. They hold the intellectual property, patents, and most important, a research team for its signature product: Gorilla Glass—something Apple needs to make its signature product, the iPhone.
“Corning’s longstanding relationship with Apple…has also helped create nearly 1,000 American jobs and allowed us to continue growing and expanding in the U.S.,” Weeks added in the release. “This investment will ensure our plant in Harrodsburg remains a global center of excellence for glass technology.”
A Lexington Herald article from 2012 mentioned Corning was adding 80 jobs at $25/hour back then. It would be an added bonus if Apple’s latest investment resulted in more jobs in this rural town of 8,300+.
Perhaps other companies can follow in Apple’s footsteps. It takes businesses to make investments in companies that create local jobs. But a little prodding from the current government can’t hurt either!