If the Industrial Age belonged to the oil barons; the Post-War Era, to the baby boomers; and the past decade, to the Silicon Valley hackers--this Post-Great Recession era can belong to the manufacturer. That is, if we take hold and help America get back to its roots.
Appetite for American Made has never been greater. A resurgence of the original favorite, the American automobile, has put more than 170,000 Americans back to work since 2008. The country's biggest retailer has pledged $50 billion to domestic sourcing over the next decade. And companies as diverse as apparel and personal computer makers have promised to return offshore manufacturing stateside.
This week, at the third annual Clinton Global Initiative America meeting, I will join a panel of world-class leaders for a working group on manufacturing--specifically tackling how we can spur this manufacturing renaissance onward by tapping into the American spirit, creating long-lasting value through quality products and meaningful livelihoods for workers, and building the communities outside of a plant's four walls.
I've seen the power of this new way of doing business at Chobani, where the focus is on crafting delicious, nutritious food with only natural ingredients and making it accessible to everyone. In just five years we have launched an American food trend, shaken up a long-stagnant category, challenged the conventional nutritional and pricing standards of the packaged goods industry, and surpassed $1 billion in sales.
At the center of the Chobani story is a dedication to manufacturing--80 percent of our workforce is on the factory floor. and all back-office workers make a visit to the plant in short order of starting. But all that we do is infused with an entrepreneurial spirit. It's what fueled me and my first five employees to start what today is the No. 1 selling Greek Yogurt brand in America. It's what drove Maria Wilcox, then an hourly front office administrator, to oversee production scheduling for the two million cases a week that come out of our New York State plant. And it's what inspired Cassie Treen three years ago to start a single-school food drive that has since grown to include more than 20 schools and counting, in the community near our plant.
Let's bring our focus back to rural towns. It is here where we have the most potential to revive our nation's economy. I have seen it firsthand in Chenango County, where we started our first plant. I was met again with this same type of humility, hospitality and can-do spirit in Idaho's Magic Valley, when we opened our second plant.
So I challenge this country's future entrepreneurs: redirect your entrepreneurial fervor. Make creating and crafting something new, something cool. Diversify praise for start-ups; the builders, crafters and creators deserve it. And think beyond big cities to bring life back to little towns and communities.
Here's to the makers of America. Here's to the new way of doing business.
This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and the Clinton Global Initiative in recognition of the latter's third meeting of CGI America (June 13-14 in Chicago). CGI America convenes business, government, and civil society leaders each year to make commitments promoting domestic economic recovery and the long-term competitiveness of the United States. Since the meeting's launch, CGI America participants have made more than 200 new commitments, with an estimated value of more than $13.4 billion when fully funded and implemented. For more information, click here.
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