Volume 26/Number 25; April 29/May 6, 2013
By Matthew Spieler
When considering the Made in the USA movement, one area discussed consistently is how it helps create jobs for American citizens. Since the recession hit its nadir—and energy and transportation prices began to soar—there has been a resurgence of companies either touting how they continue to keep their manufacturing in local communities or, in many cases, bringing back some or all of their production to U.S. soil.
While the flooring industry was one of the hardest hit by the economic downturn, manufacturers and suppliers are quick to point out they continue to do their part to keep American communities thriving by producing their goods domestically.
At press time carpet maker Engineered Floors announced an investment of more than $450 million to expand its presence in Northwest Georgia. Bob Shaw, chairman and CEO, said, the five-year, multi-phase project will ultimately create 2,000 new jobs, “allowing for further job creation for the area.”
“The American economy became the most powerful in the world because of manufacturing,” said Xavier Steyaert, co-CEO, IVC US, which invested approximately $75 million to build a facility in Dalton that now employs 150 people. “We didn’t initially realize how substantial the creation of 150 local jobs was. It was only after experiencing reactions of the community and policy makers that we fully understood how important it is to create any number of jobs.”
Seth Arnold, residential brand director for Mohawk, said the company currently employs about 20,000 people in the U.S. “That matters to our customers. They know Mohawk is committed to supporting the American economy, local businesses and organizations.”
Milton Goodwin, Armstrong’s vice president of wood and laminate products, pointed to the mill’s history of Made in the USA. “We have a proud legacy of U.S. production. We’ve been manufacturing flooring in the U.S. for more than 100 years [and] will continue to invest significantly in the U.S. A large portion of the products we sell here are manufactured domestically—over 90% of our wood products, 100% of our residential vinyl sheet products and 100% of our Alterna Premium Tile.”
Mannington is another company with a long tradition of making its products in the U.S., and Betsy Amoroso, director of corporate communications, noted one of the earliest examples of its commitment to U.S. jobs was back in 1931—during the Great Depression—after a fire destroyed most of its Salem, N.J., plant. “During the rebuilding process, the Campbell family announced they would continue to employ all the displaced workers and would help rebuild the new facility. By manufacturing in the U.S., we have been able to keep people employed, which, in turn, keeps local communities thriving.”
Many companies have also started to or already have brought their operations back to the U.S. Mullican, for example, completed its move last summer to a new headquarters and larger manufacturing site in Johnson City, Tenn., for producing prefinished engineered floors, and Neil Poland, president, said it will soon have four collections made domestically.
Paul Stringer, vice president of sales and marketing for Somerset Hardwood, noted imports may have greatly impacted U.S. manufacturing, “we invested in a plant in Crossville Tenn., and added jobs to produce the engineered product we were importing.”
Because the world has become a global market, it is difficult for each individual component of every single product a company makes or uses to be domestically sourced. But that doesn’t mean local jobs cannot still be created. As Piet Dossche, president of USFloors, noted, “It’s what you do with it and how you maximize added value from it, which will create the biggest opportunity to provide employment at home.”
He added, “Sometimes you have no choice but to import a product, such as bamboo and cork, as the raw materials are not available here. Even so, you still employ a lot of people in logistics, distribution, marketing, R&D, sales and management. The added value is created in the U.S., in the form of higher paying jobs. [In addition], buying these products unfinished and applying additional processes here, which USFloors is doing in its Dalton plant, adds to the creation of manufacturing jobs at home.”