Harry Moser has a big goal: to bring back 5 million manufacturing jobs to the United States by replacing imported goods with domestic production.
A tireless supporter of US manufacturing, Harry was inducted into the Industry Week Manufacturing Hall of Fame in 2010, participated in President Obama’s 2012 Insourcing Forum at the White House, and received the Made in America 2019 Reshoring Award.
He’s been quoted or featured in Forbes and the Wall Street Journal and has been seen or heard on national TV news and radio shows. He’s a frequent guest for MEP and other business group webinars.
In short, say the word “reshoring,” and Harry’s name will quickly enter the conversation. In this interview, he shares why he started the Reshoring Initiative and what the United States needs to do to better support manufacturing and job creation.
Why did you start the Reshoring Initiative?
HM: Because it was clear US manufacturing was declining and something needed to be done. My grandfather and father both worked at the Singer Sewing Machine plant in Elizabeth, New Jersey. In the early 1990s, it was the largest factory in the world with 2.5M square feet of production and 5,000 workers.
The entire manufacturing operation disappeared years ago – now I can’t find any Singer products made in the USA.
I saw this decline in my own work. I sold machine tools and foundry equipment and watched companies disappear. After 25 years at the helm of GF AgieCharmilles, now GF Machining Solutions, I retired and started the Reshoring Initiative.
We have two goals: To bring manufacturing back as much as possible and to improve US competitiveness by advocating for needed policy changes and strengthening the US skilled workforce.
What are some of the policy changes that need to be made?
HM: We need a well-thought-out industrialization policy. Right now, we’re operating under a de-industrialization policy. The dollar is too high, we lack skilled training in our education system, and we have high corporate taxes and no VAT.
We’ve destroyed US manufacturing with low duties on goods from emerging countries such as China, but when US manufacturers export their goods to other countries, these goods are subjected to high duties or a Value Added Tax (VAT). The VAT protects other countries’ manufacturing. We need to do the same.
A high dollar acts as a massive tax on US exports and as a subsidy on US imports. Thus, imported products sell at artificial discounts.
How do US labor costs compare to labor costs in China?
HM: Chinese unit labor costs, expressed in US dollars, have increased 400% since 2000. US labor costs have gone up very little. The best thing we can do for the US and for our communities is bringing jobs back.
One positive trend – 181 CEOs of the Business Roundtable signed a statement that their obligations were no longer solely to shareholders but also communities, employees, and suppliers. Companies are giving large grants to groups within communities. While this is good, companies have to walk the talk and bring production back so the communities can offer jobs.
Since you started the Reshoring Initiative, how many jobs have returned, and what has been COVID’s impact?
HM: As stated in our latest Reshoring Initiative Data Report, over 900,000 reshoring and Foreign Direct Investment manufacturing jobs were announced from 2010 through 2019. Allowing for a conservative two-year lag until hiring, call it 628,000 hired, equaling 44% of the 1.41 million increase in U.S. manufacturing jobs since the manufacturing employment low of 11.45 million in February 2010.
In 2020, we had 100,000 jobs reshored, the highest in history, with 60% due to COVID.
Companies are reshoring because they’re now becoming familiar with the previously unknown costs and risks of offshoring – which even consumers began to realize when COVID hit.
Yes, the guy at my bike shop told me they sold out of bikes because now that people were at home, they wanted to exercise. The owner said their suppliers all had huge backorders.
HM: Right. And of course, we all heard about the PPE shortages. However, companies are reshoring because they see other companies doing it. Manufacturers looked at the situation and thought, “I won’t let that happen to me.”
To help the reshoring process, we now offer the Total Cost of Ownership Estimator®. It’s a free tool that helps manufacturers shift decision-making from price-based to TCO. Instead of price per unit, company owners or procurement officers need to factor in freight, delivery, shipping times, and lost business due to inventory backorders or product loss, as well as IP risk and political instability.
Yes! A colleague works with a clothing company that offshores; part of their spring line was lost when a container ship overturned. Everything is now back ordered with no firm delivery date.
HM: With the TCO Estimator, companies can re-evaluate these “hidden” costs of offshoring. We helped one company, for example, get a $60M dollar order using TCO as a sales tool. Our Import Substitution Program identifies importers of what a company makes and trains the company to sell to the importer using TCO. This is a program we created to help US manufacturers close more sales with companies that routinely purchased products manufactured offshore. For more info, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
How do President Biden’s and President Trump’s policies compare?
HM: Trump wanted to bring manufacturing back – his heart was in the right place. He was emotionally involved but his methods weren’t right. The trade war, and the steel tariffs, for example, weren’t done well. And finally, the trade deficit did rise under Trump.
Biden says that he, too, wants to bring manufacturing back. He’s said some good things, such as giving companies benefits if they reshore. He believes our workforce can compete with anyone, which is not true. Our costs are too high.
The problem with both administrations and their policies is that they rely on superficial approaches. To get companies to reshore, we need to make fundamental changes. Get the dollar down by 20 to 30%. Create an education system that trains the workers we need now and in the future. Currently, our education and training system is very weak. As more companies reshore, they’ll need a larger, better trained skilled workforce.
Harry — thank you for your time and valuable insight!
If you’re a manufacturer, and you’ve reshored all or part of your production, or if you’ve won contracts because procurement officers couldn’t wait months for products from offshored competitors, let Harry know. He wants to hear your story.
Visit the Reshoring Initiative
Connect with Harry Moser on LinkedIn