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The Reshoring Challenge: Why and How CEOs are Moving Jobs Back to America

Don Rongione, CEO of Bollman Hat Co. in Adamstown, Pennsylvania, had a unique ally in his effort to shift hat production from China to Pennsylvania—famed actor Samuel L. Jackson, who, along with other Hollywood stars, was a fan of the company’s Kangol 504 woolen knit cap.

It shifted half of its paper sales to Walmart to Memphis-based production in 2015; and this year, more than half of all the gift wrap it sells to Walmart will be made in Tennessee, not just converted. Just as Rongione at Bollman Hat discovered, however, finding the right people to operate the new printing presses has been a challenge. Impact Innovations has added 25 jobs to its staff of 35, as well as 100 seasonal jobs. Some employees are from the company that got bought out, Cleo, but even they need help with the newer equipment. “There is certainly more technology involved and there has been some retraining,” Dammermann explains.

“I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t prefer to manufacture in the U.S. It’s just easier to manage.”

He is frustrated that more young people are not interested in manufacturing jobs. “The perception of manufacturing jobs may be that they are somehow dirty and manual,” he says. “But it’s much more technology-driven. There is much more automation. The jobs can be very rewarding and challenging.”

However, it’s a tough sell. “I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t prefer to manufacture in the U.S.,” Dammermann continues. “It’s just easier to manage. I think we will continue to see more manufacturing coming back, but the workforce is going to have to be here for it. That means different types of training and education. It’s not like flipping a switch and everything moves back. It’s a process.”

The bottom line: The reshoring of American manufacturing is real, but it will require a great deal of effort over several years before it becomes a major contributor to U.S. economic growth.

Read more:
Manufacturers: Are You Ready to Reshore?


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