Such a rebound in domestic ingenuity served as a focal point in last week’s visit to Cleveland by U.S. Secretary of Commerce John Bryson. On Friday, we addressed the White House Cabinet member’s remarks during the historic ribbon cutting at the new Whirlpool Corporation manufacturing facility whose construction could become a story of “how to” in factory design.
But for U.S. manufacturing to make a full comeback, corporate commitments must be made ... like those by Whirlpool to rebuild and replace aging production facilities on American soil, and perhaps even in the same communities — like Cleveland.
Surely, Bradley County area residents are the benefactor of this landmark Whirlpool decision. But so is Tennessee. And even more so is America.
The new plant is far more than just a new plant. Assuredly, it is $200 million worth of cinder block, cement, heavy equipment, high-tech processes, materials and roofing, but the gesture by this Michigan-based, global company is far more reaching. It is a symbolic step ahead.
Whirlpool Corporation is a world leader in the manufacturing and marketing of home appliances. It is a 101-year-old company that has stood its ground in the face of bad times long before the current Great Recession. And it has persevered.
Like other successful manufacturers of like size and volume, it has endured in the face of adversity. It has made difficult decisions that always pointed to the big picture. Why else would a manufacturer invest $200 million in a new factory that produces premium cooking products ... in the midst of a 5-year-old recession that has ransacked the housing market, thereby impacting appliance demand among builders and remodelers?
It is because Whirlpool, and forward-thinking companies just like it, never give up on innovation. The appliance builder knows business will return and the company will be ready for when it does. That’s the purpose of constructing a costly new plant in the middle of bad economic times — in order to be prepared for rapid growth and to unleash a wave of exciting new products on the American, and international, consumer when the time is right.
It is the Whirlpool way of saying “no” to retreat, and “yes” to the future.
As we would be with any U.S.-based company that displays such conviction toward domestic growth, we are impressed with the Whirlpool slogan of “Invested in America.” It is more than words. It is a promise, one taking place now.
Consider these company stands as explained by Whirlpool Chairman and CEO Jeff M. Fettig:
- Whirlpool spends more than $7.4 billion annually to operate its nine U.S. plants.
- Whirlpool provides manufacturing jobs to 15,000 U.S.-based workers.
- Whirlpool spends more than $10 million per year training its employees.
- Whirlpool sells in America more than 82 percent of the products it builds in America.
- Whirlpool now exports more than 12 percent of its products made in America.
- Whirlpool has more U.S. manufacturing employees than all of its major competitors combined.
Appliance brand preference lies with the consumer. It is not our newspaper’s intent to nudge buyers toward one or the other.
But we know this.
If U.S. manufacturing is to make the level of comeback sought by Secretary Bryson, then its responsibility will fall to American companies that are willing to make commitments by drawing business lines in the corporate sand.
Whirlpool Corporation has drawn such a line.
We hope others will follow in their bold footsteps.