Factory Update: 3 Surprising Developments in US Manufacturing
Ian Wright posted on June 20, 2016 |
A big new plant in Phoenix, an unusual request from textile workers and moving Mexican manufacturing...
The manufacturing sector is constantly changing, with facilities opening and closing on what seems like a daily basis. But despite how common such announcements are, some still manage to be surprising. Take these three new developments from Dexcom, Polartec and TREMEC.

Dexcom Expands Manufacturing Operations

Dexcom, a manufacturer of continuous glucose monitoring devices (CGM) for diabetes patients, recently announced plans to construct a manufacturing facility in Greater Phoenix, Arizona to support its global manufacturing operations. The 180,000-square-foot facility is projected to create more than 500 jobs over the next several years, with production set to begin in Q2 2017.

The G4 continuous glucose monitor. (Image courtesy of Dexcom.)
The G4 continuous glucose monitor. (Image courtesy of Dexcom.)
There are two things about this announcement that make it noteworthy. One is the sheer size of the facility—roughly three times the area of a football field—and the number of jobs it will create. The second and more surprising point is the manufacturing facility’s location. Given that the facility is meant to support Dexcom’s global manufacturing operations, it’s unexpected to see it situated in a landlocked city.

Given that the company is headquartered in San Diego, the closest domestic seaport, and California’s track record of treating manufacturers poorly, the choice to locate such a large manufacturing operation in nearby Phoenix could almost be taken as a deliberate snub.

Polartech Workers Seek to Save Historic Factory

Workers at a Polartec textile mill are urging Patagonia, a Polartec partner, to acquire the mill in order to prevent it from being shut down. The two companies have a longstanding relationship, having jointly developed the synthetic fleece that was first introduced in Patagonia’s outdoor sportswear. The mill has been in operation for over a century, and was the site of the “Bread and Roses” textile strike in 1912.

Polartec textile workers call for Patagonia to buy their mill. (Image courtesy of UNITE HERE!)
Textile workers call for Patagonia to buy their Lawrence, MA mill. (Image courtesy of UNITE HERE!)
According to the workers, the negative effects of closing the Lawrence, MA mill would extend beyond its historical value and reverberate throughout the city. Lawrence is already one of the poorest cities in New England, with one third of incomes falling below the poverty line. By purchasing the mill and continuing its operations, Patagonia would preserve 350 jobs.

“These are some of the most experienced textile workers in the country, in a factory that was built for a very high level of innovation and quality,” said Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera. “Although Polartec's private equity owners have refused to discuss their options with us, we would welcome the opportunity to work with Patagonia to ensure that this factory can continue to operate under new ownership and remain in Lawrence."

It’s surprising to see plant workers unite behind a proposal for their facility to be acquired by another company, but in this case it means preserving one of the few remaining textile plants in New England. At the time of this writing, Patagonia has not responded to the request.

Mexican Manufacturer Investing in Michigan

Mexican auto supplier TREMEC Corp. is planning to invest USD$54 million in a major new facility in Wixom, MI. The news came from the Michigan Economic Development Corp., which also reports that the state awarded TREMEC a USD$731,500 grant in the form of a property tax abatement.

TREME transmissions: soon to be made in Michigan. (Image courtesy of TREMEC Corp.)
TREMEC transmissions: soon to be made in Michigan. (Image courtesy of TREMEC Corp.)
The new facility will be the site of the company’s global business development headquarters, a technical support center and a transmission production operation. According to state officials, Michigan was chosen over competing sites in Indiana, Ohio and Mexico.

This news is a strange twist of fate in light of the ongoing American manufacturing exodus to Mexico, but it does emphasize the idea that—despite what some political candidates would have you believe—manufacturing itself is ultimately politically neutral.

For more US manufacturing surprises, check out The 3 Most American-Made Cars of 2016.

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