Feb 21, 2017
By Rich Rovito, Biz Times
In 2013, Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, made a bold commitment to purchase an additional $250 billion in products supporting American jobs over 10 years.
Based on data from Boston Consulting Group, it’s estimated that one million new U.S. jobs could be created through this initiative, including direct manufacturing job growth of approximately 250,000 and indirect job growth of approximately 750,000 in the support and service sector.
“We are fully invested in this work because it is good for everyone involved. It both allows us to give our customers the products they want at a better price, and it positions us to help our suppliers move jobs back to the United States,” said Joe Quinn, senior director of public affairs and government relations for Walmart.
“Our core customer makes it clear that, when possible, families want to buy products that are made in this country. And by making this work a priority we are increasing overall awareness of why it matters so much to communities.”
Quinn will provide an update on the initiative during a break-out session at the Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership’s Manufacturing Matters! conference on Feb. 23 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Milwaukee.
He will also offer a look at the retailer’s work with both large and small manufacturers in the effort to bring production and jobs back to the United States.
Sourcing more products domestically has also allowed Walmart to lower its transportation costs and be quicker to react to consumer demand, he added.
“As consumers tastes or desires change, the closer you are to your source of production the quicker you can change,” Quinn said.
Walmart spends $4.4 billion annually with suppliers in Wisconsin and supports 68,000 supplier jobs in the state, according to the company.
“Wisconsin is a state with a great work ethic and a long history of understanding manufacturing,” Quinn said.
He noted that one of Walmart’s major Wisconsin suppliers is Kimberly-Clark Corp., which produces paper-based consumer products, including diapers, toilet paper and facial tissue, at its manufacturing complex in Neenah.
Feedback from consumers has shown support for Walmart’s program, with research showing that where a product is made is second in importance only to price, he added.
“You’ll see more and more products made and assembled in the United States,” said Quinn.
Walmart’s pledge also includes sourcing “new to Walmart” manufactured goods domestically and reshoring the manufacturing of goods it currently buys by facilitating and accelerating the efforts of its suppliers.
To underscore its commitment, Walmart hosted a U.S. Manufacturing Summit themed “Investing in American Jobs.” The event, open to current and potential suppliers, included an open call for new U.S.-made products.
“We are in this for the long haul,” Quinn said. “There was a time when Walmart had a different relationship with its suppliers. Now, it’s certainly more of a partnership.”
The evolving relationship also creates more opportunities for small and midsize manufacturers to do business with Walmart, Quinn said.
“It used to be that if Walmart liked your product, you had to gear up your production for 3,000 stores immediately. “Now, if you have a barbecue sauce that is made in Milwaukee, we might just start with 300 stores.”