Lenovo is looking to set up shop in America but don’t expect your next ThinkPad computer to sport a Made In The USA sticker just yet.
IBM offloaded its computer business to China-based Lenovo in 2005. This brought harsh criticism upon IBM, a shining example of American success. But soon Lenovo will be able to advertise something long forgotten by American computer companies Dell and HP. Lenovo plans to open up an assembly facility in North Carolina, thus becoming the first major computer company to build computers on American soil in a generation.
The Chinese computer company intends to start manufacturing a small quantity of ThinkPad and ThinkCentre laptops, desktops and tablets in North Carolina. The Whitsett, N.C. facility will employ just over 100 workers and cost the successful company a mere few million. The company tells the Wall Street Journal that it isn’t a one-time Made-in-America stunt, but rather the start of something larger.
This facility is intended to give the company more flexibility in terms of custom PCs. The plant, just miles away from its US headquarters, will cater to U.S. corporate clients. The majority of the firm’s computers will still be assembled in China and Mexico.
Since taking over IBM’s product line, Lenovo has seen tremendous success. With $30 billion in revenue in 2011, the company now ranks as the second largest PC manufacturer in the world trailing only HP. Gerry Smith, Lenovo’s head of global supply chain, stated to the WSJ that this move is part of an effort to localize product. “Now we are big enough in the U.S. to justify this move,” he said.
Lenovo is unique among computer brands as it makes, rather than outsources, more than half of the computers it sells. Many US computer companies including Apple rely on manufacturing companies such as Foxconn to build its products.
There was a time when it seemed manufacturing would never return to America. Factories were shuttered en masse. Jobs were sent elsewhere. It seems companies are testing the waters here as the financial and public relations cost of using Chinese labor increase. Google employed a California-based electronic builder for its ill-fated Q media streamer. Many Kickstarter products use American makers and the advent of 3D printing can turn a basement office into a legitimate manufacturing facility.
Come on, HP, Dell and Apple. If Lenovo can build computers here, you can too.