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U.S. mfg. to benefit from Walmart-funded program

Walmart U.S. President and CEO Bill Simon joined 280 of the nation's mayors in Washington, D.C., at the U.S. Conference of Mayors Meeting to announce a new fund for innovation in American manufacturing and a new supplier commitment to bring production of bikes and jobs to South Carolina.

Walmart and the Walmart Foundation will fund the five-year program and work in collaboration with the U.S. Conference of Mayors to launch it in March. The fund will provide grants to innovators in the manufacturing sector and seeks to create new processes, ideas and jobs that support America's growing manufacturing footprint.

"If we want to grow manufacturing and help rebuild America's middle class, we need the brightest minds in our universities, in our think tanks, and in our towns to tackle obstacles to U.S. manufacturing," said Simon. "The $10 million fund will identify and award leaders in manufacturing innovation and help us all work together to create opportunity."

Last year, Walmart said it planned to buy an additional $50 billion in American products. Walmart estimates that its $50 billion pledge, in the 10th year, will result in Walmart buying an additional $250 billion cumulatively in the next 10 years. The company added that its pledge is in an effort to grow U.S. manufacturing and encourage the creation of U.S. jobs.

The Boston Consulting Group predicts that this $250 billion investment will create 1 million jobs, including the jobs in manufacturing and related services.

Kent Bicycles announced it is moving production from overseas to Clarendon, S.C. According to Kent, when at full capacity in 2016, they will have added at least 175 jobs and will be assembling 500,000 bikes annually. The company, based in Parsippany, N.J., expects to start production in the fall.

"We look forward to bringing production to South Carolina," said Arnold Kamler, owner of Kent Bicycles. "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."

"Those that have already taken the risk to move or expand manufacturing in the U.S. tell us they are experiencing a first-mover advantage — a significant leg-up in terms of market-share and momentum," added Simon. "Kent Bicycles is taking the opportunity to become one of those first-movers with its facility in South Carolina."

"It's exciting to see a leading manufacturer, like Kent Bicycles, choose South Carolina to manufacture bicycles, a mainstay of an American childhood. We celebrate the company's decision to create at least 175 new jobs and produce a half a million bicycles annually in Clarendon County, and we are pleased that Walmart's commitment to domestic manufacturing is accelerating real progress on the issue," said South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley.

Walmart also plans to host its second U.S. manufacturing summit in Denver, Colo., in August. 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 Simon. "This will help rebuild the American supply chain to support U.S. manufacturing and create more jobs."

Walmart's first summit in August last year brought together more than 1,500 attendees, including 500 suppliers, 34 states and government officials to discuss opportunities to create jobs, restore communities and drive economic growth.