I had an opportunity to attend the opening of a new lead-free foundry by Watts Water Technologies in Franklin, New Hampshire recently. If you read the article on the switchover to lead-free plumbing in the past couple of issues of Plumbing & HVAC Magazine, you will realize what a massive undertaking this has been for manufacturers and wholesalers in order to have this in place by Dec. 31.
But every time I attend a plant opening like this there’s an important back-story. And that is bringing jobs that had been shipped overseas back to North America. As one worker told me in the Watts manufacturing plant: “In 2005 this (production) line was in China.”
We are seeing in the United States a cultural change that sees sending jobs overseas as “un-American.” People are becoming more conscious of supporting “made-in-America” products. While there have been many problems with outsourcing, quality control being one of them, the biggest problem is what Henry Ford recognized years ago. If people don’t have jobs or are not paid a reasonable wage, you are going to have a tough time selling your products.
While the recession that hit the U.S. so hard in 2007 was largely caused by shenanigans on Wall Street, the recovery has been dramatically slowed by the lack of employment. We are finally seeing the U.S. come back and even the construction industry is recovering somewhat.
Manufacturing has been hard hit here in Canada too as many in the U.S. see us as part of the problem. U.S. corporations are “bringing those jobs home.” We have certainly seen that in the plumbing and HVAC industries over the past 20 years with the loss of so many manufacturing plants.
However, as the U.S. recovers, there will be opportunities for Canadian manufacturing as well. We are starting to see some home-grown manufacturing. Ensuring that any employment a manufacturer creates goes to people that live within their target market is just plain good business.