Like many people, I’ve been getting pretty excited when I read studies about the potential for reshoring of manufacturing jobs back to the U.S. Many trends, such as technology changes, changing energy cost structures, and rising labor costs in China and elsewhere are all coming together to make America a more competitive location for manufacturing facilities. I don’t need to belabor the potential benefits of reshoring—more capital investment and, most importantly, a larger base of high quality jobs for working families. Unfortunately, preliminary results from a study by researchers at MIT’s Center for Transportation and Logistics suggest that the promised new jobs and investments have yet to materialize. The researchers, Jim Rice and Francesco Stefanelli, examined fifty recent announcements of large-scale reshoring projects and found that few of these announced projects were ever completed. In most cases, the announced project has not yet happened. In a few instances, the deal occurred but few new jobs actually ensued.
It is possible that many of the announced deals will ultimately happen—delays in projects of this type are the norm. But, the findings do suggest that we should remain somewhat cautious in our hopes for reshoring—even when our hearts push us to do otherwise. The resurgence of U.S. manufacturing is not going to magically happen on its own. It’s going to take lots of hard work and a commitment to new investments, workforce training, and on building a more competitive and responsive business environment for manufacturers of all sizes.