NORTHBRIDGE, Mass. - Over the past 20 years it seems as though one American company after another has become a design and marketing shell, with production shifted to contract manufacturers in China, India or some other Asian country. With the shift away from manufacturing, America lost good jobs at good wages. A lot of them!
Here in the region of the country where America's Industrial Revolution began with Samuel Slater, that transition has seemed especially painful. We've watched textiles, steel, shoes, optics and a variety of manufacturing businesses move away taking away jobs and undermining the local tax base.
Now, according to the New York Times, that trend may be showing early signs of reversing. Increasingly, we're beginning to see a rebirth of manufacturing in Central Massachusetts. IPG Photonics in Oxford, a leading manufacturer of laser technology, is expanding thanks, in part, to assistance from state and local governments. New England Envelope has moved into a larger facility by acquiring the former Schuster Mill in Douglas. Even small businesses like Boston Bumper of Whitinsville, which restores and resells damaged auto bumpers, is looking to expand and hire additional personnel.
Ground is being broken for expansion at Biomeasure Inc. of Milford. The existing 77,000 square-foot Milford outpost is the center for Ipsen's U.S.-based peptide and toxin R&D platforms and is a current good manufacturing practice (cGMP) facility focused on producing recombinant proteins to treat hemophilia. Accelrys, a scientific software company based in California, has finalized plans to move its Massachusetts subsidiary, VelQuest, to Industrial Road in Milford later this year.
With the rebirth of the Grafton and Upton Railroad in Milford and Hopedale, businesses from other parts of the state, as well as from other places beyond our boundaries, are moving to Central Massachusetts. Romar Transportation Systems has announced its move from Boston to Hopedale because of the new availability of rail access. The railroad's rejuvenation could prove very beneficial to companies such as St. Gobain's Veralia subsidiary which recently modernized its glass furnaces to maintain a number of manufacturing jobs in the local area. It should also make the former Draper facility more attractive for development.
It's clear that some American companies are again making products in the United States either by expanding their domestic manufacturing or bringing jobs back home. While many of those companies have been small, there have also been some highly visible moves by America's largest consumer and industrial manufacturers. General Electric and Caterpillar, for example, have moved assembly operations back to the United States in the last year. Locally, Milton CAT, a major Northeast distributor for Caterpillar machines, is also promoting Certified Power Train (CPT) rebuild to overhaul existing construction machinery at the Milford facility.
There is no single reason for the change, according to the New York Times. Rising labor and energy costs have made manufacturing in China significantly more expensive; transportation costs have risen; companies have become increasingly aware of the risks of the theft of intellectual property when products are made in China; and in a business where time-to-market is a competitive advantage, proximity of manufacturer to customer is a big advantage. The best way that we can honor American workers during this Labor Day time is by looking for the made in USA in the products we buy whether we purchase these goods as individuals or as businesses.
State Sen. Richard T. Moore, D-Uxbridge, represents 14 towns in South Central Massachusetts in the Massachusetts State Senate. He is a member of the Legislature's Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies.