On Thursday at the US Conference of Mayors Meeting in Washington, D.C., Walmart US President and CEO Bill Simon announced a new fund for innovation in US manufacturing.
Walmart and the Walmart Foundation will fund the five-year program and launch it in March in collaboration with the US Conference of Mayors. The fund will provide grants to innovators in the manufacturing sector and seeks to create new processes, ideas and jobs that support the country’s growing manufacturing footprint.
“If we want to grow manufacturing and help rebuild America’s middle class, we need the brightest minds in our universities, in our think tanks, and in our towns to tackle obstacles to US manufacturing,” said Simon. “The $10 million fund will identify and award leaders in manufacturing innovation and help us all work together to create opportunity.”
Last year Walmart announced that it will buy an additional $50 billion in American-made products per year in an effort to grow U.S. manufacturing and encourage the creation of U.S. jobs. The company estimates the pledge will result in an additional $250 billion cumulatively over the next 10 years, which the Boston Consulting Group predicts will create a million jobs, including those in manufacturing and related services.
Walmart also announced that it will host its second U.S. manufacturing summit in Denver, Colo., in August 2014. One focus of this year’s summit will be connecting manufacturers in need of component parts to factories with excess capacity.
“Many factories aren’t operating at full capacity. By working together, we have an opportunity to repurpose or help add production to some of these communities,” said Simon. “This will help rebuild the American supply chain to support U.S. manufacturing and create more jobs.”
While operating on a smaller scale than Walmart, a number of innovative startups are doing their part to revive domestic clothing manufacturing:
- Manufacture New York, the country’s first fashion design and production incubator, allows local fashion designers the opportunity to conceive, develop and manufacture their own lines here in the US;
- SustainU, an apparel company targeting the college market, has helped relocalize textile manufacturing by reopening existing US clothing factories and using all recycled textiles;
- Eco-friendly clothing company Dirtball manufactures its Green Jean from cotton and recycled water bottles that have been repurposed to create high-quality cotton/polyester denim. All materials used to make the Green Jean are sourced from either Georgia or North Carolina (the cotton comes from industry scraps that would otherwise head to the landfill) and manufactured in Kentucky;
- and Flint and Tinder is looking to help revive the American cut-and-sew industry and provide an antidote to disposable fashion with such built-to-last products as the 10-year hoodie.