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Walmart Launches $10 Million Innovation Fund to Support U.S. Manufacturing and Spur Reshoring

ORLANDO, Fla.—Walmart launched a U.S. manufacturing innovation fund in March that encourages eligible non-profit organizations to apply for grants of $100,000 or more, funded by the Walmart Foundation, to help create solutions to challenges many companies face with reshoring and growing U.S. manufacturing.

The first year of the initiative will focus on innovation in textiles manufacturing and common manufacturing processes that apply to a broad range of consumer goods, including small motor manufacturing and tooling for injection molding. Anticipated participating organizations include research and academic institutions, think tanks, and other non-profit entities focused on innovations in manufacturing. Applications are due April 22, 2014 and those interested in applying for the grant should visit www.usmanufacturingfund.com.

"Through the Walmart U.S. Manufacturing Innovation Fund, we hope to help remove the barriers to revitalizing and growing U.S. manufacturing, creating jobs and building a stronger American economy," said Cindi Marsiglio, vice president of U.S. sourcing and domestic manufacturing for Walmart, in a press release. "This is part of Walmart and the Walmart Foundation's broader commitment to foster new ideas and jobs to promote strong communities and grow America's manufacturing footprint."

The March announcement is part of Walmart's commitment to buy an additional $250 billion in products that support American manufacturing. It represents a significant investment to accelerate U.S. manufacturing and create American jobs. The Boston Consulting Group estimates the initiative will add 1 million jobs in the United States. Last year, Walmart announced that it will buy an additional $50 billion in American products, estimating that its $50 billion pledge will result in Walmart's buying an additional $250 billion, cumulatively, during the next ten years.

"The U.S. Conference of Mayors is committed to helping bring manufacturing jobs back to America's cities, and our partnership with Walmart and the Walmart Foundation will strengthen our metro economies that drive the national economy," said Tom Cochran, USCM CEO and executive director, in a press release.

Walmart held its first investment summit in Orlando, Fla., in August of last year, which brought together more than 1,500 attendees, including 500 suppliers and 34 state and government officials to discuss opportunities to create jobs, restore communities, and drive economic growth. Walmart's second U.S. manufacturing summit is scheduled to be held in Denver, Colo., in August 2014. One focus of this year's summit will be connecting manufacturers in need of component parts to factories with excess capacity.

"Many factories aren't operating at full capacity. By working together, we have an opportunity to repurpose or help add production to some of these communities," said Walmart U.S. President and CEO Bill Simon, in a press release. "This will help rebuild the American supply chain to support U.S. manufacturing and create more jobs."

After attending the August 2013 summit, Kent Bicycles announced it is moving production from overseas to Claredon, South Carolina. When at full capacity in 2016, the company will have added at least 175 jobs and will be assembling 500,000 bikes annually, according to Kent representatives. The company, based in Parsippany, N.J., expects to start production in the fall of 2014.
 
"We look forward to bringing production to South Carolina," said Arnold Kamler, owner of Kent Bicycles, in a press release. "Our company moved all manufacturing overseas in 1990 because it was so much more cost effective. When Walmart made its commitment to U.S. manufacturing last year, it opened our eyes to restarting some manufacturing here. We attended Walmart's August manufacturing summit and were able to focus our efforts quickly and make things happen with South Carolina."

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