June 29, 2011 -- Today brought good news for candy lovers looking to satisfy their sweet tooth with an American-made treat.
Mars Chocolate announced it's building its first new chocolate factory in the U.S. in 35 years. The factory will be in Topeka, Kansas, a $250 million investment that will create 200 jobs immediately and possibly as many as a 1,000 jobs in the future.
"I hope it tells Americans that we can build jobs, and we can be highly competitive and the best. Consumed in the U.S., made in the U.S.," said Mike Wittman, vice-president of supplies at Mars North America.
Kansas Senator Sam Brownback called the new facility, expected to be completed in 2013, "sweet news" for his home state, while the executives at Mars highlighted their desire to keep this new facility as efficient as possible.
"We want this plant to be a bellwether, an icon, a role model for other companies," said Wittman. "Our intention is to design and build a facility to meet LEEDS [Leadership in Energy and Environment Design] Gold standards for construction and building efficiency as well as to take advantage of sustainable energy resources that the state of Kansas has to offer.
And it isn't just candy that is seeing a resurgence of American-based manufacturing. In the past 12 months the manufacturing sector has added 173,000 new jobs. That is nearly twice the rate of jobs that have been added to the U.S. economy as a whole.
The trend can be seen across every industry.
Hair care company Farouk is assembling their hair dryers and curling irons in Houston rather than China, creating 1,200 jobs in the process. Computer chip maker Global Foundries recently built a $7 billion facility in Saratoga, N.Y., and has already created 550 jobs. They expect that number could rise to 1,400. And Milwaukee-based Master Lock, the largest lock maker in the U.S., has transferred 75 to 100 manufacturing jobs from China to Milwaukee in the past 12 months.
For Chesapeake Bay Candle, the decision to come back to the U.S. -- to Glen Burnie, Md. -- was an easy one. CEO David Wang started the company in his basement, and over the past 17 years the business has supplied candles to large chains including Target and Kohl's. But from the beginning the company did all its manufacturing in China, taking advantage of the country's low cost labor in order to keep their own products affordable.
Now, for the first time they have opened a plant here in the U.S., citing a variety of reasons, including a declining exchange rate and the desire to be able to ship its product on a quicker timeline.
"Quality is obviously one of the reasons why we wanted to build this factory, so that we have control of quality in order to give the best products to our consumers and to optimize our opportunities of manufacturing with suppliers nearby so that we can respond to retailers," explained Wang.
Customers are "going to get a very different product in terms of quality because it's more consistent. It's not one person pouring it here and one person pouring it there," added Wang.
Wang hopes that opening up its new Glen Burnie plant will not only pay back the community that made him successful, but encourage others to bring jobs back to America. The facility will add about 100 new jobs to the local economy and also provide a manufacturing facility for smaller mom-and-pop companies looking to keep their product "Made in America."
"Now that China has all the money, it's time to give it back," joked Peter French, the owner of French Color and Fragrance, a company that works with Chesapeake Bay Candle.
It's a sentiment President Obama spoke about today during his press conference.
"We can't afford to have labor and management fighting all the time, at a time when we're competing against Germany and China and other countries that want to sell goods all around the world," he said. "There are more steps that we can take right now that would help businesses create jobs here in America. Today, our administration is trying to take those steps."
And it will take lots of steps: 2.3 million manufacturing jobs have been lost since the economic crash. So far just 240,000 have come back.