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Made in America Again: Jobs Returning to U.S. from China
Rock Center with Brian Williams
<Picture US furnitue worker at Jig Saw>
Some jobs that were outsourced to China are returning to the United States. In North Carolina, a once shuttered furniture factory is reopening and boasting that its wood furniture is, once again, made in America. The news provides hope for some Americans that jobs they thought were lost forever might be making the round trip back to the United States. Harry Smith reports.
america from overseas. they’re real and they are here.
>>> welcome back. drive around almost any american city and you’ll find them easily shuttered, vacant factories. the jobs are gone. in some cases they’ve gone overseas. to quote bruce springsteen , they ain’t coming back. or are they? where manufacturing jobs are concerned, we are just seeing the first glimmers of evidence that some of those jobs may be making a round trip back here to the states. harry smith visited a factory owner who sent his company’s jobs to china, but then home called him back. and in just the last few days his products are made in america again.
>> reporter: lincolnton , north carolina , is a pretty old town. still proud from better days when manufacturing put decent paychecks in people’s pockets. it seemed like those days were
>> we made a great product. we were proud of it. and we lost it all.
>> reporter: maybe it can happen
>> it will. it will. it will be better.
>> reporter: out on the edge of lincolnton at the old cochran furniture factory, the lights are on again. new machinery is being delivered. and soon local lumber will be milled into fine furniture .
>> i wake up and i think about this and i think about the people that really depend on this happening, and i won’t let them down.
>> reporter: bruce cochran ‘s family has been in the furniture business here since the civil war , but bruce sold the business 20 years ago.
>> this is my grandfather right here.
>> reporter: easier to sell than try to compete with the chinese, he figured. so he became a go-between who connected american furniture companies with chinese manufacturers.
>> the money was incredibly good, and, you know, when you’re making money like that, you really — you really don’t see the consequences of some of the things that you’re doing and the detriment that — you know, people losing jobs here. i realize that i was really a big part of the problem.
>> reporter: bruce kept hearing ce.
>> my daddy always said, it’s not about making furniture , it’s about people making furniture . and i think about that all the time. it’s about the people.
>> reporter: so bruce finally decided to listen to that voice and start up the old factory again. when you first came to your wife and you said, honey, i’m thinking about opening up the old business again.
>> she thought i was crazy. at first she thought i was kidding. then there were the detractors, they’re still out there, saying no way that you’re going to be able to pull this off.
>> reporter: but at the big furniture show in north carolina last fall, the orders poured in.
>> reporter: buyers were impressed with the samples. solid wood , made in america , guaranteed for life.
>> you don’t remember me, i remember you.
>> reporter: for bruce , this isn’t just sentimental. he sees real opportunity. e rising, shipping costs have doubled. china is not the bargain it used to be.
>> we have to recognize that the average chinese worker is about as quarter productive as the u.s. worker.
>> reporter: hal sees bruce as a dramatic shift. he says the days of china so often have a cost advantage over u.s. manufacturers is about to come to an end.
>> i think we’re looking at the tipg point right now. by 2015 , we’ll be at the same level as the cost of the chinese products.
>> reporter: 2015 ?
>> reporter: that’s a couple of years from now. far away. it’s for a bunch of products, things like computers, electronics and televisions, for industrial goods like rubber products and machinery.
>> reporter: that could mean million of new american jobs in the next few years. how big an impact will this have on the economy as these jobs go from china back to the united states ?
>> it will be a major impact. are when you take the manufacturing jobs and then the service jobs that get created alongside those, that we will add 2 to 3 million jobs to the u.s. work force .
>> reporter: this is no small thing. for bruce , reopening the factory is not a leap of faith but an act of belief. in himself and the people who used to work for him.
>> how are you doing today?
>> reporter: taryn padgett worked for bruce and his father for 20 years. she was unemployed and frightened about the future when bruce called to hire her back.
>> when he called me, it was such a relieved feeling. i know when i talk to some of these people i know that relieved feeling is coming for them.
>> reporter: now she’s doing the hiring.
>> my phone started ringing immediately. constant. people stop me in the grocery store.
>> reporter: kevin cook used to work here, too.
>> what strengths do you feel that you have?
>> i feel that i’m a hard worker, i’m always on time . i’m good with people. and you know, i’ll give you the hundred percent every day that i’m here.
>> that’s exactly what i want to hear.
>> reporter: the effects can be felt across lincolnton .
>> when i heard about them opening back up, wow, okay, there’s momentum. it gives you steam. gives everybody steam. rie is part owner and manager of bessie’s kitchen where they serve the best fried chicken between raleigh and asheville. cars and trucks going in and out of that driveway.
>> and the truck drivers . that would be great for the truck drivers because we got a great big parking lot out here.
>> reporter: even the white house has taken notice. that was bruce , a republican, sitting near michelle obama at the state of the union address last week. 130 new jobs may not seem like much —
>> this it is you’re looking at it right here. that is the first piece of furniture that lincoln furniture has actually produced on this line.
>> reporter: but bruce and the folks at lincolntonfurniture feel like they’re on to something.
>> it’s pretty emotional. just like you’re a part of my family. i want everybody to sign this piece of furniture today.
>> reporter: they’re not waiting for the economy to bounce back. they’re pitching in to see that it does. bruce cochran is a living parable about people and profits and priorities. it almost seems to me that there’s some personal redemption in this for you as well.
>> my father was a — he was a great man. and i was not of that ilk. i was not as compassionate, and i didn’t have the empathy. and genuine love for the people that he had. and i got a second chance.
>> harry smith here with us in the studio. i think most reasonable people can agree, it would be good for our country to be manufacturers again, and then i heard you saying that he had a rough go getting financing and i hate to hear that.
>> it’s so interesting. because here’s a guy with a great business plan . couldn’t have more experience, got the best people in the community to get this started. they had a bunch of cash to start. he needed operating capital . he went up and down the east coast , went through all the banks in the south, couldn’t find financing until he went to s home town .
>> well, there you go. thank you very much for bringing us that story. that was fantastic.
>> my pleasure.