Fast Company

Innovating US Manufacturing - Is it coming?

I was looking at appliances this past weekend, and the salesperson rattled off a rather long list of brands carried by his store.  When I didn’t recognize a specific brand he mentioned, I asked him to repeat it.  He did, saying “That was Fisher & Paykel; it’s from Australia.”  Living in Boston, Australia seems like a pretty exotic source for a rather mundane appliance like a washing machine.  In reality though, many well known brands of goods come from great distances to get to their point of consumption.

However with the spiraling cost of fuel making shipping not just a green issue but also an economic issue, one has to wonder, is U.S. manufacturing poised for a rebirth?  Add to the issue of energy costs the declining dollar and a difficult credit climate, and you have a complex set of issues for business.  Yet, this sort of climate is exactly the type of situation that creates opportunities for companies that recognize issues as opportunities to change the rules of the game.

New rules may point to new and interesting win-win-win scenarios.  Many U.S. cities that have been left behind as post-industrial backwaters could see a path to making themselves attractive regional manufacturing centers as the economics of ecology and global finance shift the balance of costs.  This could be a win for companies trying to balance costs with green initiatives, for cities looking to become economic revitalization zones, and for consumers who are getting whacked by the energy costs that are passed along to them in the price of goods.

What do you think?  Is there a change in the wind coming fueled by energy costs and other economic factors and realized through business innovation?

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