Motorola Mobility, the phonemaker Google purchased last year, announced yesterday that it will manufacture its newest phone, the Moto X, in the United States (just outside of Fort Worth, Texas). Motorola Mobility CEO Dennis Woodside teased the new smartphone at the D11 conference, but the made-in-America buzz trumped the latest and greatest features it’s purported to have. The NYT reports:
Dennis Woodside, the head of Motorola, said…that the Texas location would allow Motorola to “iterate and innovate much faster.”
Mr. Woodside acknowledged that while the Moto X will be built in the United States, not all of its parts would necessarily come from American manufacturers.
“The components will come all over the world,” he said. Display parts will be built in South Korea, for example, and processors will be made in Taiwan, he said.
Woodside estimated that the Texas plant would employ roughly 2,000 Americans. That’s nothing to shake a stick at, but nor is it as exciting as some are making it out to be. The phone’s parts will still be made outside of the US; the Fort Worth plant will just be putting these parts together. And a few thousand jobs here and there are hardly a sign that the Fordist era of American manufacturing is making a comeback.
So why is Google making such a big deal about this? First, because the made-in-America tag is great PR, and tech companies like Google and Amazon are increasingly seeing the value in aligning themselves with the preferences and causes of the American political class.
A couple of years ago, when President Obama asked Steve Jobs whether Apple could make its products in the US rather than China, he famously replied that “those jobs aren’t coming back.” Today’s tech giants seem much less cavalier about delivering such dour news to Washington. Issues of intellectual property rights and instances of state-backed hacking of American companies have become big problems for Silicon Valley. Tech CEOs have re-discovered the benefits of cozying up to Uncle Sam for warmth in a cold, harsh world.
We’re happy that Texas will pick up a couple of thousand jobs courtesy of Google, but this doesn’t mean mass manufacturing employment is coming back.