August 27, 2013

West Memphis ready to help Wal-Mart fulfill pledge to boost U.S. manufacturing

The message to those attending Wal-Martai??i??s first U.S. Manufacturing Summit held in Orlando last week was clearai??i??the only way to bring manufacturing jobs back to the U.S. is to work together. And while few, if any, of the representatives from three dozen states think Wal-Martai??i??s ai???Made in the campaign will restore U.S. manufacturing to itai??i??s
former glory, the prospect of getting manufacturers to rethink overseas manufacturing was enough to peak the interest of more
than 1,500 attendees.

One of those, one of only a handful representing municipal agencies, was West Memphis Economic Development Director Ward Wimbish. He said the chance for one-on-one meetings with so many manufacturers and suppliers considering setting up operations in the U.S. was too good to pass up.

ai???This is a fantastic opportunity for West Memphis. We are an excellent fit for so many of these industries,ai??? Wimbish said. ai???We have the accessible sites and skilled workforce that so many are looking for. And we have the capability to move quickly to respond to them as they determine how they will help Wal-Mart meet its

That goal, announced by the Bentonville, Ark.-based retail giant earlier this year, is to buy $50 billion worth of U.S.-made products over the next 10 years. Wal-Martai??i??s CEO and U.S. president, Bill Simon, told the group that returning more manufacturing to America is crucial to rebuilding the middle class.

“Today, America has an abundance of entry-level jobs and some high-end jobs. But the middle has eroded,” he said in a quote from The Orlando Sentinel. “Most people agree it can’t go on like this.”

According to the Sentinel story published on Aug. 22 (Day 1 of the conference), overseas outsourcing has received more public scrutiny as well, after a fire and factory collapse in Bangladesh killed more than 1,000 garment workers in separate tragedies.

“I really think we’re at a tipping point now for U.S. manufacturing,” Wal-Mart Stores chief executive officer Mike Duke said in the Sentinel article. “Transportation costs are going to continue to rise, so I think producing product near consumers is a phenomenon that’s happening here in the United States and will be a tremendous opportunity.”

Among the business and government leaders attending the conference were U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker; General Electric chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt; and Rosalind Brewer, president and CEO of Samai??i??s Club. The eight governors in attendance included Arkansasai??i?? Mike Beebe, who addressed the group on Thursday about Wal-Martai??i??s importance to his state, listing ways Arkansas will cooperate with industries to help set up stateside operations.

Wimbish said The Arkansas Economic Development Commission (AEDC) led Arkansas’ effort with a trade show booth and a number of scheduled interviews with prospective industries. Wimbish also identified a number of prospects for West Memphis.

ai???Our strengths and assets in West Memphis are scalable and adaptable to a variety of operationsai??i??from logistics to global trade to high tech manufacturing,ai??? Wimbish said. ai???It doesnai??i??t have to be either import/export or domestic manufacturing. We can accommodate