Many Happy Returns: Why The Move To Bring Jobs Back To The U.S. Is A Boon To The Channel

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"It's still more economically viable to manufacture overseas," said Jay Parker, president of Lenovo North America. "That gap has shrunk but still hasn't closed. But bringing manufacturing within the U.S. is worth the competitive advantage."

That edge for Lenovo means that orders ship faster, last-minute configurations are a breeze and close-to-the-box services such as SLAs can be modified without impacting delivery dates.

"If you are a channel partner that doesn't want to carry inventory and I tell you, 'Hey, this order doesn't have to be on a boat or even on an airplane from China. It's coming from North Carolina this afternoon and it will be to you in two days.' That's a big deal and that's an advantage to this model," Parker said.

In June, Lenovo began production of its ThinkCentre M92p desktop, ThinkPad Helix convertible Ultrabook and ThinkPad Tablet 2. It has added more than 115 manufacturing jobs and 185 additional North Carolina jobs for logistics, service and return positions and 150 call-center jobs have been reshored from Bangalore, India, Parker said.

For Lenovo partner Computer Upgrade King, Midlothian, Va., which deals in federal and state government contracts, products assembled in the U.S. can be a boon to business.

"In some cases, customers demand or require that systems are assembled in the U.S.," said Rob Robinson, vice president of Computer Upgrade King, which also is General Services Administration/Trade Agreement Act-compliant. "We can go to a customer and say, 'Here is your U.S.-built system' and lay it on a silver platter. It helps us sell Lenovo and that has been good for business," Robinson said.

"For our partners, this [is more than] a feel-good story," said Tom Looney, vice president and general manager for Lenovo North America. "When two VARs are dealing with the federal government, and one bid creates U.S. jobs and the other doesn't, the company is going to pick the VAR creating a job."

Howver, the CEO of a leading government contractor, who asked not to be identified, said winning a contract has less to do with patriotism and more to do with system reliability and price. "If a computer or BPO [business process outsourcing firm] is TAA-compliant and the price is right, nine out of 10 times you win the contract," he said.

Being TAA-compliant means goods comply with a 1979 act of Congress that governs trade agreements negotiated between the U.S. and other countries. The act requires a product to be made in the U.S. or in a designated country that includes Canada, Mexico, Australia, Singapore and more than 100 others.

NEXT: Closing The Communications Gap

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