Wednesday conversation: Regional Economy

Many goods still made in U.S., Georgia

By Jason Moss
The lack of good-paying jobs and the sluggish economy are hot topics. The most common response I hear to correct these problems is that our government or businesses should step up and create more jobs. I invite you to consider a new perspective: The only true job creator is the consumer and, yes, that shifts the responsibility to you and me.
Do you want to be part of the solution, or do you expect someone else to fix everything?
Most buying decisions are multifaceted, with each part playing a different role in the final outcome. Obviously we must choose products that meet our needs and budget. The typical consumer doesn’t ponder where the product was manufactured or how purchasing it could  affect job growth.
Most people think that all manufacturing is done overseas and that we don’t make anything in America. This is true for certain items, but you would be amazed to learn about the multitude of products that are made in Georgia. Roughly 10 percent of our overall economy is based on the 480,000 employees who work in 9,500 manufacturing facilities in Georgia. We manufacture a wide variety of products in almost every industry, but the average consumer can hardly name three things that are manufactured in Georgia.
How many can you name?
Here are some interesting manufacturing facts about the Peach State:
u25A0Careers in manufacturing pay an average of 16 percent higher than nonmanufacturing jobs.
u25A0Assistance programs help pay for training for skilled trades.
u25A0Jobs are available and manufacturers are hiring.
u25A0The state’s business climate has been named No. 1 in the nation by Site Selection Magazine, a trade publication.
Growing jobs is simple — connect businesses and individual consumers to products  that are locally manufactured and  that they need. Gov. Nathan Deal recently declared June  “Buy From Georgia Month.” The centerpiece of the month is the second annual Georgia Manufacturing EXPO, which takes place June 13-14 at the Gwinnett Center.
It’s a grassroots movement that has gained the attention of Wal-Mart. As part of  its initiative to grow  jobs in America , that corporation has pledged to buy $250 billion over the next 10 years in additional American-manufactured goods. Experts predict the initiative will create more than a million jobs.
During the expo, Wal-Mart executive Joe Quinn will share some of the details of this program with consumers. He’ll also speak with manufacturers at a special exhibitor-only reception so they can learn more details about how to get involved.
We live in a free country and choose what items to buy and where to purchase them.
Are you doing your part to help grow jobs by purchasing Georgia-manufactured goods?
Check out the expo and learn about great products manufactured in Georgia, and take the opportunity to drive a robot. Free tickets are at http://www.GeorgiaManufacturing

Jason Moss is the founder of the Georgia Manufacturing Alliance.

Working to boost industry, spur growth

By Cindi Marsiglio
In 2013, Wal-Mart made a commitment to the revitalization of America’s manufacturing industry by promising that, over 10 years, it would invest $250 billion more in products that support American manufacturing.
This commitment has spurred conversation about how we invest in American jobs. We hope this renewed interest in driving economic growth in the U.S. will inspire others to think about what they can do to make things here again.
We certainly can’t do this alone. After all, Wal-Mart is not a manufacturer. What we can do is take a role in moving manufacturing back to the United States and in finding solutions to major barriers to on-shoring manufacturing.
We see opportunities across a number of categories that include patio furniture, bikes, furniture and televisions. We plan to accomplish this goal in three ways: growing business with suppliers we already deal with, attracting new suppliers and shifting existing items to U.S. production from overseas.
To help attract new suppliers, we are reaching out in new ways. One example: Our inaugural Open Call event on July 8 in Bentonville. We want suppliers who manufacture in the United States to bring their products. We will set up meetings with key buyers and executives while they are in Arkansas. It’s the first time we have opened our doors in this way, and we hope to find new products that will delight customers.
In addition, we are a sponsor and participant of the Georgia Manufacturing EXPO in a couple of weeks. We know Georgia is taking a leadership role in manufacturing and have seen several examples — in fact, we already have several examples, including Authentic Comfort and Elan-Polo.
Twenty percent of Wal-Mart’s memory foam mattress topper business is manufactured in the U.S., including a facility in Newnan. In March, Elan-Polo International, a footwear supplier, started production of injection-molded footwear at a factory in Hazlehurst as part of a venture with McPherson Manufacturing. At full capacity, this new facility will create 250 jobs and produce 20,000 pairs of shoes per day.
The time is right to bring back manufacturing — and the jobs that come with it — to the United States. Economics are changing. Making goods closer to the point of consumption makes sense for our customers and country. We’ll be able to respond more quickly to consumer trends and demand. Communities will have a sense of pride when they see local products on our shelves.
We hope many manufacturers, including those in Georgia, join us at our Open Call event as well as our second U.S. manufacturing summit in Denver this August. Together, we can help jump-start the manufacturing industry in this country and bring back jobs.

Cindi Marsiglio is Wal-Mart vice president of U.S. manufacturing.

‘Georgia Grown’ brand expands

By Gary W. Black
As a Georgian, even if agriculture is not in your immediate family lineage, it is still a part of your being. Our homeland was named in honor of King George, but have you ever considered the root meaning? In Greek, George or the feminine form “Georgia” means “a farmer.” Agriculture is our heritage, our current $77 billion leading industry, and our future as well.
“Georgia Grown,” our  economic development program for food, fiber, forestry and agricultural products, has swept the nation two years after its reintroduction. Farmers, processors, manufacturers and agricultural service-related industries connect with our department and obtain an annual license to use the trademarked Georgia Grown brand . License fees are  invested in promotional activities and managed by the independent Georgia Grown Commission. More than 400 license holders feature the brand on  labels and marketing materials.
In collaboration with the Georgia Restaurant Association, we are branding Georgia Grown menus and dining establishments from the coast to the nation’s capital. We are now working with the third class of chefs affiliated with our Georgia Grown Executive Chef Program. These “AGvocates” work with  farmers and commodity groups to bring our products to market, as well as educate consumers through our “Pick, Cook, Keep” series on Georgia Public Television.
In April, we launched a student Georgia Grown membership for young entrepreneurs, 4-H and FFA members.
We are reaching schools through our “Georgia Grown Test Kitchen” and “Feed My School Georgia Grown” activities. The objective: Improve school nutrition and expand  markets for Georgia farmers.  A Georgia Grown kiosk opened this spring at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.
With our latest partnership, area Kroger stores will now have a section that only sells Georgia-grown items. I’m particularly excited about Kroger because of the link their membership creates between producers, manufacturers and retailers that provides access to Georgia products. This  partnership is in addition to an existing relationship with Bi-Lo and Harvey’s Supermarkets throughout South Georgia.
The Georgia Grown program has been around for a decade. Today we have better defined its purpose. The goal is to improve the profitability of Georgia’s agricultural sector by building brand integrity. Recognition of the quality  of Georgia-based products and services continues to grow in domestic and international markets. Help us keep Georgia Growing.

Gary W. Black is the Georgia agriculture commissioner.

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