Sunday, August 03, 2008

Silver lining of expensive oil: Manufacturing jobs return to U.S., even to Piedmont furniture belt

Globalization, which wiped out hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs in rural America, depends partly on low shipping costs. With oil prices at $125 a barrel, the shipping has become so expensive that some of those jobs are coming back. "Globe-spanning supply chains — Brazilian iron ore turned into Chinese steel used to make washing machines shipped to Long Beach, Calif., and then trucked to appliance stores in Chicago — make less sense today," Larry Rohter writes in The New York Times.

We took note in May when Swedish furniture giant Ikea opened its first American factory in Danville, Va. Today, Rohter notes that and says furniture makers in the area, "where the industry had all but been wiped out," are adding jobs. “There’s just a handful of us left, but it has become easier for us domestic folks to compete,” Steven Kincaid of Kincaid Furniture in Hudson, N.C., told Rohter. The company is a division of La-Z-Boy, which started a new line in the Piedmont area this spring.

“If we think about the Wal-Mart model, it is incredibly fuel-intensive at every stage, and at every one of those stages we are now seeing an inflation of the costs for boats, trucks, cars,” Naomi Klein, the author of The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, told Rohter. “That is necessarily leading to a rethinking of this emissions-intensive model, whether the increased interest in growing foods locally, producing locally or shopping locally, and I think that’s great.” (Read more)

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