Wal-Mart touts job creation ahead of inauguration and corporate office layoffs

by Kim Souza ([email protected]) 1,110 views 

Taking a page from competitor Amazon’s playbook, Bentonville-based Wal-Mart Stores said Tuesday (Jan. 17) it plans to create 10,000 new retail jobs across the country this year when it opens 59 new stores or expands and remodels existing stores previously announced in October.

The retailer said its capital building plan will also support 24,000 construction jobs around the country. That announcement was made by Dan Bartlett, executive vice president of corporate affairs for Wal-Mart who spoke during the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Washington D.C.

Amazon made news last week with its plans to add 100,000 U.S. jobs over the next 18 months, also largely seen as posturing for the incoming presidential administration that has taken a strong stance on trade deals that help, not hinder the U.S. economy.

Wal-Mart’s news on job creation also comes before the Presidential Inauguration slated for Friday (Jan. 20) and ahead of what is expected to be significant job cuts in the retailer’s corporate and support offices, mostly in its home base of Northwest Arkansas.

Wal-Mart also reiterated Tuesday its own commitment to U.S. manufacturing announcing grants to fund sustainability and innovation in the textile manufacturing industry.

“Wal-Mart is investing to better serve customers,” Bartlett said. “With a presence in thousands of communities and a vast supplier network, we know we play an important role in supporting and creating American jobs. Our 2017 plans to grow our business –and our support for innovation in the textile industry – will have a meaningful impact across the country.”

The Walmart Foundation will provide $3 million in grants through the U.S. Manufacturing Innovation Fund to six leading universities working to advance sustainability and innovations in textile manufacturing, which has proven to be one of the most challenging industries to reshore to the U.S. The retailer and its foundation have funded $10 million in grants through the U.S. Manufacturing Innovation Fund since 2014.

Bartlett said this year’s grant recipients for textile innovations include the following.
• Washington State University – to establish a sustainable process to recycle cotton waste by fiber regeneration using a wet spinning technique.

• North Carolina State University – to create a universal and sustainable commercial textile dyeing method that doesn’t use salt or alkali; doesn’t produce effluent; and produces more than 95% savings of both energy and water.

• Clemson University – for development of sustainable polyester fibers that achieve a high level of water and oil repellency.

• Oregon State University – to develop a sustainable, cost-effective dyeing and printing of smart fabrics process.

• Texas Tech University – to support research on various aspects of textile manufacturing, dyeing efficiency and specialty finishes.

• University of Massachusetts Lowell – to develop magnetic dyeing technology to address the technical and environmental issues of current dyeing techniques.

When launched in 2013, Wal-Mart’s U.S. Manufacturing Jobs initiative was lauded by states and cities across the nation that saw darkened factories light up and jobs trickle back into their communities. Wal-Mart garnered a lot of publicity for the $250 billion pledge it made to buy more products made in the USA between 2013 and 2023. But four years into that pledge the growth in new jobs appears to have slowed. Some of the biggest cheerleaders for this effort such as former U.S. CEO Bill Simon and executive Michelle Gloeckler have also left the company.

Cindi Marsiglio, vice president for U.S. Manufacturing at Walmart, has also been a champion of this cause. She told Talk Business & Politics recently that Walmart hopes to create 1 million jobs nationwide by 2023 with this effort and the retailer is on track with what it is spending and what it estimates in terms of job creation.

“I have been in factories around Arkansas since we’ve begun this initiative, and I’ve seen areas for growth and opportunity – job by job, factory by factory, “ Marsiglio said Oct. 10 during an announcement made at Pernod Ricard in Fort Smith.

The Fort Smith announcement did not create new jobs, but the company said it would relocate a production line to Fort Smith for the Malibu Rum product equating to about 6,000 shift hours for existing and seasonal employees to perhaps move to full-time.

Wal-Mart said Tuesday that under the initiative, it works with thousands of suppliers to help them gain access to the retailer’s shelves in stores and online. The retailer said this year there are new jobs coming to California Innovations, the maker of Ozark Trail super coolers. This is a Canadian company that has some U.S. operations and is in the process of moving some production from China to Atlanta Ga., and creating 350 jobs.

Edgewell Personal Care, a maker of personal hygiene products is planning to move production from Canada to Dover, Del., creating 272 jobs in that community. Renfro Corporation expects to create 442 jobs with a deal to manufacture athletic socks in Fort Payne, Ala. Wal-Mart did not say how long it take before these new manufacturing sites ramp up to full employment. In most cases it takes three years or so.

Reshoring Initiative, a nonprofit organization focused on helping companies reshore manufacturing production since 2010, estimates 265,000 jobs have been created in the United States since January 2010 through July 2016 as a result of companies bringing some of their manufacturing production back to the United States from abroad. Their estimates include Wal-Mart’s efforts.