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All ashore that’s going ashore

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It’s been a long time since tools were regularly made in the U.S, with pretty much all of them migrating to foreign shores over the years. But is the tide changing?

When’s the last time you saw a sticker or other notice that something you bought for the shop was “Made in U.S.A.?” A long time, probably. Well, here’s something else I’m betting you haven’t seen in a while:

That’s a photo I snapped earlier this week showing part of a production line at DeWalt’s new tool plant in Charlotte, N.C. The facility builds a couple cordless drill models and a recip saw, while additional tools originate at six other domestic plants DeWalt inaugurated in just the last two years. And DeWalt isn’t the only American brand name exploring the idea of making things here again. We’re beginning to see it often enough, in fact, that media outlets covering manufacturing and the economy have even come up with a word for it: “reshoring,” or returning formerly overseas production to home shores.

Why? Well, for one thing, it’s just good business. Americans overwhelmingly prefer to buy goods made in America – an impressive 78%, according to a 2013 Consumer Reports survey – and giving potential customers what they want is kind of a no-brainer.

I’ll leave it to you to argue whether tools produced in the U.S. are better than those produced overseas. I’ve pointed out on a number of occasions that U.S.-made goods aren’t necessarily better. Where something is produced isn’t the factor that controls quality, it’s the company making the product that controls the quality. That said, an awful lot of woodworkers have an awful lot of yellow in their shops – including me – so it’s clear that DeWalt, the controlling company, is doing something right.

But one thing that’s not debatable is that an item produced overseas doesn’t use a U.S. employee on the assembly line, and I think that’s the key here. In the case of DeWalt, they’ve hired some 500 new employees – so far – to work the lines at their seven U.S. plants. In a population of 320 million, I suppose that 500 people gainfully employed aren’t going to make a huge bump in the employment numbers, but it’s a darn good start. Especially if other tool manufacturers take notice and follow suit.

And that’s something I’d like to see.



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