“Anything we can do to support U.S. manufacturing, we want to do," says Chad Lusk, Chief Strategy Officer and Senior Vice President of Marketing at Ferrara Candy Company in Chicago. The company has even gone so far as to shut down two Canadian production facilities and move 25 million pounds of annual candy production back to the United States. Ferrara is part of a renewed push to return jobs from international manufacturing plants to the U.S.
If you've eaten Lemonheads, Trolli, Now & Laters, Black Forest, or Brach's candies (to name just a few), you've enjoyed the fruits of Ferrara's labor. Ferrara currently produces 18 different brands of non-chocolate confections in six production facilities, with four in the U.S. and two in Mexico. Production outside the U.S. was established decades ago, explains Lusk, because it was more cost-effective, based on raw materials, labor, and transportation costs at that time.
But when Walmart, a Ferrara customer, announced a $250 billion manufacturing initiative that drew attention to the issue of U.S. jobs, it presented Ferrara with an opportunity. “We took it as a call to action for ourselves," says Lusk. “We make investments in ourselves to best meet our customers' needs."
While Lusk says that the move was not financially driven, it was in line with the company's goal to be “a more dynamic, more efficient producer of confections."
The prospect of moving all the equipment and raw materials from Canada to Chicago was daunting at first, but Ferrara began breaking down the process about two years ago. The final transition from Canada to the U.S. took three months, he says.
Although moving entire manufacturing operations anywhere may seem overwhelming at first, says Lusk, it can certainly be done. Ferrara's advice for approaching the opportunity is to:
Despite surprises along the way — Lusk says that equipment doesn't always reconnect as expected — Ferrara has seen only positive results from moving jobs back to the States. Lusk reports that the reaction from Ferrara's employees was positive. Candy consumers noticed, and it helped boost sales above category growth rates.
“It's been inspirational for us as an organization," says Lusk. "It showed us what we were capable of. Every aspect of the company was touched in some way. Our workforce is excited by what it means for them."
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