By ANNE D'INNOCENZIO and MIKE SCHNEIDER
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) â¿¿ Wal-Mart Stores Inc. spearheaded an effort Thursday to bring together retailers, suppliers and government officials so they can figure out how to bring more manufacturing jobs to the United States.
The world's largest retailer hosted its first two-day U.S. Manufacturing Summit in Orlando, hoping to capitalize on the company's recent commitment to drive more manufacturing in the U.S. The "made in the USA" campaign could boost Wal-Mart's image, which is constantly under attack by labor-backed groups who have criticized the retail behemoth as a destroyer of U.S. jobs rather than a creator.
The goal of the summit was to start "connecting the dots" with a dialogue among the 500 manufacturers, officials from three dozen states, eight governors and U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker at the conference, said Bill Simon, president and CEO of the company's U.S. division.
"It could be difficult for one at a time, all of us on our own," Simon said. "The best way to overcome the challenges is to talk to one another."
The summit comes seven months after the Bentonville, Ark.-based discounter pledged that it planned to buy $50 billion more U. S. made goods over the next decade. That's the equivalent of just more than 10 percent of what Wal-Mart will sell at retail this year. Wal-Mart said that if other merchants do the same, it would mean an additional $500 billion in American-made goods over the next decade.
Several companies were quick to get into the spirit at the summit. Kevin Toomey, president and CEO of Kayser-Roth Corp., a North Carolina-based legwear manufacturer, said his company would create over 100 jobs with a $30 million investment, and sock manufacturer Renfro Corp. announced a $10 million investment would bring 195 U.S. jobs.
Jeff Immelt, chairman and CEO of General Electric Corp., announced that the company would be bringing 150 manufacturing jobs to plants in Illinois and Ohio where high-efficient lighting will be built. The $30 million investment will be at plants in Circleville, Ohio; Bucyrus, Ohio; and Mattoon, Ill.