The American Interest
Analysis by Walter Russell Mead & Staff
Apple Brings (Some) Manufacturing Back to the US

There’s an old piece in the NY Times that tells of a dinner in February 2011 in which California’s finest gathered for the opportunity to ask President Obama one question each. When it came to Steve Jobs’s turn, Obama was instead the one to ask him a question. He asked about Apple’s choice to manufacture its goods abroad:

Why can’t that work come home? Mr. Obama asked.

Mr. Jobs’s reply was unambiguous. “Those jobs aren’t coming back,” he said, according to another dinner guest.

But are things changing? Are the jobs coming back after all? Apple products are typically stamped with “Designed by Apple in California. Assembled in China.” New stamps on some iMacs, however, say “Assembled in USA.”

As Apple CEO Tim Cook told Brian Williams, the entire line of new iMacs will be assembled in the good old United States. ”We’ve been working for years on doing more and more in the United States,” Cook told Williams. Not since 2004 has the Apple factory in Elk Grove churned out a computer. But Elk Grove’s staff has increased by 50 percent, and your next iMac might come straight from this facility.

While this may represent only a baby step back home for Apple, it is part of a larger trend nationally. Companies like Google have already been “reshoring” manufacturing: moving production back to the Americas. As labor costs rise in manufacturing hubs like China, and as automation technology changes the way things are produced, reshoring makes more and more sense, even to companies that may once have thought it impossible.

There’s your answer, Mr. President. Sorry you had to wait so long.

Published on December 6, 2012 12:19 pm