Pol­icy ac­tions

Re­tailer maps out how its plans to ben­e­fit U.S. man­u­fac­tur­ing re­vival.

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - ROB­BIE NEISWANGER

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is propos­ing 10 pol­icy ac­tions in­tended to ben­e­fit U.S. man­u­fac­tur­ing, un­veil­ing the re­port dur­ing a bi­par­ti­san dis­cus­sion held Wed­nes­day in Wash­ing­ton.

The pol­icy road map for the coun­try was cre­ated with the help of Bos­ton Con­sult­ing Group and de­signed to elim­i­nate some of the bar­ri­ers lim­it­ing do­mes­tic man­u­fac­tur­ing. To­gether, Wal-Mart and the con­sult­ing firm be­lieve that the plan could help re­cap­ture $300 bil­lion of the $650 bil­lion of con­sumer goods that are cur­rently im­ported and cre­ate 1.5 mil­lion U.S. jobs.

“We’re not talk­ing about pol­icy changes by them­selves be­ing the so­lu­tion,” said Dan Bryant, Wal-Mart’s se­nior vice pres­i­dent of global pub­lic pol­icy and gov­ern­ment af­fairs. “But the 10 pol­icy ac­tions out­lined in the re­port will ab­so­lutely lead to a turn­ing on of the spigot to in­creased U.S. man­u­fac­tur­ing. There are real bar­ri­ers that can be re­moved.”

Wal-Mart said it cre­ated the road map af­ter first iden­ti­fy­ing four bar­ri­ers hin­der­ing U.S. man­u­fac­tur­ing: the un­avail­abil­ity of qual­i­fied work­ers, a U.S. tax sys­tem and trade agree­ments in need of mod­ern­iza­tion, com­plex reg­u­la­tions and a lack of co­or­di­na­tion and fi­nanc­ing.

The re­tailer cited its own ex­pe­ri­ences in work­ing with sup­pli­ers as an in­spi­ra­tion for the plan. The Ben­tonville­based re­tailer is more than four years into a com­mit­ment to source an ad­di­tional $250 bil­lion in U.S.-made prod­ucts by 2023. Wal-Mart, which said two-thirds of its prod­ucts are sourced in the U.S., be­lieves that the 10-year cam­paign could cre­ate as many as 1 mil­lion jobs.

Cindi Mar­siglio, Wal-Mart’s

vice pres­i­dent for U.S. sourc­ing and man­u­fac­tur­ing, said dur­ing Wed­nes­day’s pre­sen­ta­tion that she is proud of the com­pany’s progress so far. She did not pro­vide specifics re­gard­ing Wal-Mart’s progress to­ward the goal but ac­knowl­edged that there still is plenty to ac­com­plish as the half­way point of the com­mit­ment ap­proaches.

Mar­siglio also said Wal­Mart has learned plenty about the chal­lenges sup­pli­ers face the past four years.

“The good news is we’ve also learned how to over­come the chal­lenges and, be­cause of our ex­pe­ri­ence, Wal-Mart is uniquely po­si­tioned to help fa­cil­i­tate broad en­gage­ment in ac­cel­er­at­ing the ex­pan­sion of U.S man­u­fac­tur­ing,” Mar­siglio said in a pre­pared state­ment.

Some of the ac­tions Wal­Mart pro­posed Wed­nes­day in­clude re­duc­ing the costs on pri­vate in­dus­try to train work­ers through tax in­cen­tives

aimed at ap­pren­tice­ships and other forms of train­ing; chang­ing the im­age of U.S. man­u­fac­tur­ing to at­tract new work­ers through pro­grams like ed­u­ca­tional work­shops and ca­reer de­vel­op­ment ini­tia­tives; and us­ing tax in­cen­tives to en­cour­age the growth of com­po­nent pro­duc­tion to help close sup­ply-chain gaps and pro­mote man­u­fac­tur­ing clus­ters.

Ad­di­tional ideas in­clude har­mo­niz­ing man­u­fac­tur­ing reg­u­la­tions across dif­fer­ent lev­els of gov­ern­ment, stream­lin­ing com­pli­ance re­quire­ments, cre­at­ing a glob­ally com­pet­i­tive tax en­vi­ron­ment and mod­ern­iz­ing trade agree­ments to en­hance the com­pet­i­tive­ness of U.S. man­u­fac­tur­ing.

Scott Paul, pres­i­dent of the Al­liance for Amer­i­can Man­u­fac­tur­ing, said a healthy amount of con­ver­sa­tion re­gard­ing ways to strengthen U.S. man­u­fac­tur­ing is al­ready un­der­way, so Wal-Mart’s pro­posed plan was not “ground­break­ing.”

But Paul did agree with some of the re­tailer’s sug­ges­tions

such as the em­pha­sis on work­force train­ing. He said oth­ers were much more “proWal-Mart.” Paul pointed to the plan of har­mo­niz­ing man­u­fac­tur­ing reg­u­la­tions — in­clud­ing “Made in the USA” la­bel­ing — among gov­ern­ment agen­cies as an ex­am­ple.

“I think hav­ing a broader set of stake­hold­ers in­ter­ested in the fu­ture of Amer­i­can man­u­fac­tur­ing is a good thing,” Paul said. “But I also fear, in some ways, that Wal-Mart may also be say­ing, if you read be­tween the lines, it may be hard for us to meet our Made in Amer­ica com­mit­ment be­cause pol­icy is stand­ing in the way. They’re kind of set­ting up that po­ten­tial ar­gu­ment.”

The re­port was re­leased nearly a month af­ter Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer Doug McMil­lon told com­pa­nies par­tic­i­pat­ing in the re­tailer’s “Open Call” for U.S. prod­ucts event that Wal-Mart was “com­mit­ted to be­ing a leader in terms of pol­icy.” McMil­lon said at the time that Wal-Mart was plan­ning to un­veil a list of U.S.

man­u­fac­tur­ing pol­icy rec­om­men­da­tions.

Wal-Mart gath­ered rep­re­sen­ta­tives from busi­nesses, gov­ern­ment and non­govern­men­tal or­ga­ni­za­tions to dis­cuss those rec­om­men­da­tions in Wash­ing­ton on Wed­nes­day.

Gov. Asa Hutchin­son was not in at­ten­dance but ap­plauded Wal-Mart’s ef­forts to pull stake­hold­ers to­gether to fur­ther the con­ver­sa­tion.

“One of my chief pri­or­i­ties is to en­sure that all Arkansans have ac­cess to qual­ity em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties,” Hutchin­son said in a state­ment. “The best way to achieve that is to cre­ate an en­vi­ron­ment that en­cour­ages com­pa­nies to in­vest and cre­ate jobs right here at home.

“Wal-Mart’s ef­forts to re­move the hur­dles that keep many com­pa­nies from pro­duc­ing goods do­mes­ti­cally by com­bin­ing the forces of gov­ern­ment, the pri­vate sec­tor and Non-Gov­ern­men­tal Or­ga­ni­za­tions, is a great step for­ward in tack­ling this com­plex is­sue.”

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