by Max Brantley
The New York Times takes an in-depth look today at whether the story of luring foreign car manufacturers to the U.S. could hold a lesson for bringing tech manufacturing (think iPads and other consumer electronics) to the U.S.
For years, high-tech executives have argued that the United States cannot compete in making the most popular electronic devices. Companies like Apple, Dell and Hewlett-Packard, which rely on huge Asian factories, assert that many types of manufacturing would be too costly and inefficient in America. Only overseas, they have said, can they find an abundance of educated midlevel engineers, low-wage workers and at-the-ready suppliers.
But the migration of Japanese auto manufacturing to the United States over the last 30 years offers a case study in how the unlikeliest of transformations can unfold. Despite the decline of American car companies, the United States today remains one of the top auto manufacturers and employers in the world. Japanese and other foreign companies account for more than 40 percent of cars built in the United States, employing about 95,000 people directly and hundreds of thousands more among parts suppliers.
It's a complicated topic. Tariffs, trade practices, tax breaks, work ethic and lots more figure. But it's important as the U.S. gropes with ways to enhance the manufacturing sector.