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Can High-Tech Be Made In America?

By Ideas Lab Staff September 5, 2012

An online discussion at The New York Times investigates the issues preventing U.S. companies from bringing high-tech manufacturing home.

Are there policies the U.S. should pursue that might encourage high-tech manufacturers to have their products “Made in America” rather than China or elsewhere in Asia? High-tech companies like Apple claim it’s too expensive or there aren’t enough workers here with the right training.

In a discussion moderated by The New York Times, Laura Tyson, a professor at the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley, and Peter Cappelli from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, took questions from online readers about the merits of promoting high-tech manufacturing at home.

In response to one question about the feasibility of redirecting post-industrial economic growth towards marketing expertise rather than manufactured goods because of the high cost of labor Cappelli said that labor accounts for only about 15 percent of the costs of building a car for example, and much less for electronic items like cell phones. “Unless one is in a commodity business where the only aspect of products or services that differs is the price, making something or doing something that is better than your competitors is still the best path to success,” Cappelli writes.