Revitalizing Manufacturing is Key to Reviving Middle Class

By Bill Simon, US President and CEO Walmart, Special forUSDR.

Walmart U.S. President and CEO Bill Simon will deliver the following remarks, as prepared for delivery, at the U.S. Manufacturing Summit in Orlando, today, August 22nd at approximately 3:30 pmEDT:

“What a great meeting this has been. Again, I want to thank you all for being here and being a part ofthis.

“I want to share a few thoughts before we wrap up and get ready for a big daytomorrow.

“Today, you heard the economic case for American manufacturing, backed by harddata.

“You heard the view from the Administration. You heard from governors about their commitment, their workforces, and the opportunities in their states. You heard a few success stories that demonstrate this is working – proof that we can get new production up and running in the UnitedStates.

“So we’ve heard a lot of convincing evidence for revitalizing manufacturing inAmerica.

“What I want to talk to you about are the reasons that are harder to put numbers on – the impact this work will have on our communities and on ourcountry.

“You see, this is something we all care a great deal about. For me, not just as the CEO of Walmart U.S., but as an American and a globalcitizen.

The Need forOpportunity

“I truly believe that we are in a transformative period in history. The global economy has been flat-lining. Confidence is shaken. People are scared, uncertain about our future. Everyone is looking for an economic revival…longing for prosperity, security, andconfidence.

“We remember very clearly in the U.S. when a job at the local factory was a ticket to the middleclass.

“Many people are wondering what’s happening to opportunity in America …and to the American dreamitself.

“This country was founded as a place of possibility. We have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It’s right there in the Declaration ofIndependence.

“We aren’t guaranteed happiness, of course, but the right to pursueit.

“Here, you can stretch, you can grow, you can dream – and with hard work you can make a better life for yourself and yourfamily.

“But what that requires is opportunity – simple things like a first job to learn some skills, someone to give you a chance to prove yourself, and a pathforward.

“Today, America has an abundance of entry-level jobs and some high-end jobs. But the middle has eroded, leaving Americans with fewer opportunities to save money, send their children to college or build a nest egg forretirement.

“Some people talk about it as an hourglass economy. I tend to think of it as a canyon being hollowed out between the two ends of the jobmarket.

“It’s harder to get to the middle class. And the harder it is to get to the middle class, the worse off America is. And because of our role in the global economy, when America is struggling, the rest of the world feels ittoo.

“Now, almost everyone can agree that this is a problem – no matter your party or your ideology or yourindustry.

“Most people agree it can’t go on like this. The question is what we do aboutit.

Entry LevelJobs

“Some people say the answer is to just raise up the entry level jobs – to keep inflating wages at the bottom until an entry-level job pays as much as a professionaljob.

“I don’t believe that willwork.

“It’s a misunderstanding of how labor markets work and ignores that wages are driven by skills and the availability of the laborpool.

“It doesn’t address the real issue – the lack of jobs in the middle. And it fails to understand the important role of entry level jobs, including those in restaurants, hospitality, andretail.

“These jobs are a starting point… – a chance to build skills and begin taking on biggerjobs.

“Just about everyone started out in an entry level job. My first job was as a dishwasher in a restaurant for $2.10 an hour. I’m sure some of you started out stocking shelves or carryingbags.

“We all started somewhere. And by the way, these jobs are a source of opportunitytoday.

“For example, we’re proud that, at Walmart, about 75 percent of our store management teams started as hourlyassociates.

Rebuild the Middle withManufacturing

“So the solution isn’t to get rid of these starting points. The solution is to fill in the middle with more goodjobs.

“One of the best ways to do that is through a revitalization of American manufacturing. And that’s why we’re heretoday.

“America can’t be a service economy; we have to makethings.

“I can’t think of a successful example in history of an economy built solely onservices.

“Here’s how I think aboutit.

“Let’s say I work in a restaurant and you work at a movie theater. I pay to see a movie in your theater, and that gives you money to come eat dinner in my restaurant. And that can go on for a while. But if one day you decide to eat in…then I can’t go to the movies…and the whole thingcollapses.

“We’re just staring at each other. And in some ways, that’s what’s happening rightnow.

“But if we make things, then we add value and change theequation.

“When a manufacturer makes something as basic as a light bulb, then the employees can afford a night out – to eat at a restaurant and go see a movie….and make their way to the middleclass.

“So we need to make things inAmerica.

“But I want to be very clear: I’m not saying we should turn inward or move business away from otherplaces.

“This is not about our country versus other countries. We have a global economy, and the factories abroad will keep humming along, driven in part by a rising middle class around theworld.

“But as you’ve heard today the next generation of production will need to be built closer to its consumption. And that creates an opportunity for all ofus.

“With our global role, as America does better, the rest of the world willtoo.

“Now, the new manufacturing jobs may look different from the old manufacturing jobs: many of them will be higher skill and higher wagejobs.

“Instead of a lineworker walking around to inspect the machines, you might have a supervisor monitoring heriPad.

“These will be good jobs – the jobs in the middle that weneed.

“And, as you heard, the ‘multiplier effect’ tells us that each new manufacturing job will lead to about three more jobs around it, creating even more opportunity in ourcommunities.

Working Together to doMore

“So Walmart has made a $50 billion commitment. But the retail industry together could drive so much more – ten timesmore.

“That’s how we make adifference.

“We need all of us to look for these opportunities and to see the world through neweyes.

“Think about it – just today…we’ve announced commitments that will create more than 1,000 newjobs.

“Together, we can help spark a revitalization of U.S. manufacturing, using new technology and new innovations to make production in the United States affordable andfeasible.

“I want to say personally that Walmart is here to work withyou.

“We’ve appointed a senior team to lead this effort. And we’ve decided we will sign longer-term purchase agreements when it makes sense to give manufacturers morecertainty.

“As you go off to your meetings tomorrow, I hope you will know that we want to do everything we can to help bring these plans tolife.

“You can always call me, call Duncan, call your buyer. We will work withyou.

“The best part is that we can just do this. We can. We don’t need to wait onanyone.

“Business can lead theway.

“In fact, in this country…in this economy…in this political climate – business must lead theway.

“Some categories are easy to bring back, and we should go after them. There’s low hanging fruit that we’re already starting to pick. Others will be a stretch, but we should reach for thosetoo.

Making Things is Part of Who WeAre

“I tell my team all the time that our $50 billion commitment is our startingpoint.

“If we put our minds to it, there’s no question to me that we can achieve it and exceedit.

“I want us to thinkbigger.

“Many experts believe that steel could be made here again. And if you can make steel, you can make bicycles and other items that might seem out of reachtoday.

“I want those big, iconic items to be made in Americaagain.

“Let’s bring the jobs back. Let’s bring the opportunity back. Let’s bring the prideback.

“You see, we all identify with what we made in ourhometowns.

“I’m from Hartford, Connecticut where we made Pratt & Whitney engines, and Coltfirearms.

“And I guarantee you know what was made in yourtown.

“If you’re from Milwaukee…it’sHarleys.

“If you’re from Easton, Pennsylvania…it’sCrayola.

“If you’re from Huntley, Illinois…it’s WeberGrills.

“Dallas has Texas Instruments; Wichita, Kansas is proud to be the home of ColemanCoolers.

“Making things is a part of who we are. And it’s part of who we willbe.

“And we can’t afford to wait a minutelonger.

“This challenging time for our country can be turned around, but we can’t wait for the circumstances to beperfect.

“They never willbe.

“We can’t wait for someone else to ride in and save theday.

“We just have to choose to doit.

“And I know wewill.

“In this room we have manufacturers, retail industry leaders, government officials. We have the capital, the expertise, and theideas.

“And I believe we have thewill.

“You heard the economists…the numbers work. You heard from the governors…the states will do their part. You heard from other companies…this is already working forthem.

“So now it’s up tous.

“We are taking astand.

“If we do this right, we’re going to remember this as the time we came together…to roll up our sleeves…to get America back towork.

“That’s what this summit is allabout.

“That’s why I’m so proud and grateful that you all arehere.

“We’re going to rebuild that class of American jobs in the middle that made this country great…and rebuild that path to a betterlife.


All opinions expressed on USDR are those of the author and not necessarily those of US Daily Review.

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