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Working to bring manufacturing jobs back to U.S. shores

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When Bordentown-based lighting manufacturer Princeton Tec shipped nearly half of its production activity overseas in 2005 with the hopes of lowering costs, the firm realized outsourcing jobs only slipped its grip on operations and made it harder to fill the custom orders for which it’s best known on time.

“When you’re producing something in high volume, like mass-market goods, it’s simple to outsource, but when you’re making something that’s only going to an Army or Marine special forces unit, you’re selling 1,500 of the product instead of millions. And for that small volume of an order, you cannot outsource at a reasonable price,” company spokesman George Chevalier said. “Now, if someone needs us to make 300 of a particular light, we can do that right here on the spot, instead of waiting weeks or months for it to arrive.”

Chevalier said the company is still in the process of bringing jobs back to its three New Jersey facilities, where it currently manufactures about 90 percent of its products.

While Princeton Tec transitioned production back to the state without any economic incentives, the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration and the National Institute of Standards and Technology Manufacturing Extension Partnership are funding a $40 million national competition aimed at rewarding local economies that follow the firm’s footsteps in accelerating efforts to return outsourced jobs to the United States.

“More and more businesses are choosing to invest, create jobs and make things here in America — and this new initiative represents the latest effort by the (Barack) Obama administration to build on that trend,” acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank said in a statement. “By making competitive investments, the challenge will help communities across the U.S. accelerate economic growth, attract business investment and create jobs.”

Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis said in a statement the Make it in America initiative builds on current efforts at the federal level to increase foreign and domestic investment in the United States, including a proposal by the Obama administration to eliminate tax incentives for companies moving jobs overseas and to provide tax credits for companies bringing jobs back onshore.

To be eligible for the award, projects must encourage insourcing by incentivizing companies to keep their businesses, jobs and production activity onshore; fostering increased foreign direct investment; or training local workers to meet the needs of businesses in their communities.

The competition is expected to provide 15 awards, pending the number of eligible applications. The funding opportunity and guidelines for applications will be published by early 2013.


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