In Pursuit of Nissan, a Jobs Lesson for the Tech Industry?
05/08/2012 7 comentarios
The Dairy farms once draped the countryside were paved over so Japanese carmaker Nissan could build its first American assembly plant. Eighty miles to south, another green pasture was replaced by a Nissan engine factory, across Tennessee about 100 Nissan suppliers dot the landscape, making steel in Murfreesboro, air conditioning units in Lewisburg, transmission parts in Portland. Three decades ago, none of this existed. Conventional wisdom at time was simple: Japanese automakers would not build many cars anywhere but Japan, where supply chains were in place, costs were tightly controlled, the reputation for quality was unparalleled. “They were unfamiliar doing anything outside Japan,” said Senator Lamar Alexander, a Republican who was governor of Tennessee State when Nissan opened its factory here in 1983. “They were tentative and awkward even discussing it.” Today, echoes of that conventional wisdom can be heard within American technology industry. For years, high-tech executives have argued United States cannot compete in making the most popular electronic devices. Companies like Apple, Dell and Hewlett-Packard, which rely on huge Asian factories, assert that many types of manufacturing would be too costly and inefficient in America. Only overseas, have said, can they find an abundance of educated midlevel engineers, low-wage workers, at-the-ready suppliers. But the migration of Japanese auto manufacturing to United States over the last 30 years offers a case study in how unlikeliest of transformations can unfold. Despite the decline of American car companies, United States today remains one of the top auto manufacturers and employers in the world. Japanese and other foreign companies account for more than 40% of cars built in the US, employing about 95,000 people directly and hundreds of thousands more among parts suppliers. United States gained these jobs through a combination of public, Congressional pressure on Japan, “voluntary” quotas on car exports from Japan and incentives like tax breaks, encouraged Japanese automakers to build factories in America. Pressuring technology companies to move manufacturing would pose different challenges. For one thing, Apple and many other technology giants are American, not foreign, and so are viewed differently by politicians and the public. But it is possible and the benefits might be worth it, some economists say. “The U.S. has a long history of demanding companies build here if they want to sell here, because it jump-starts industries,” said Clyde V. Prestowitz Jr., a senior trade official in Reagan administration who helped negotiate with Japan in 1980s. Government could encourage domestic production of technologies, including display manufacturing and advanced semiconductor fabrication, would nurture new industries. “Instead, we let those jobs go to Asia, and then the supply chains follow, then R&D follows, and soon it makes sense to build everything overseas”. “If Apple or Congress wanted to make the valuable parts of the iPhone in America, it wouldn’t be hard” (…..)