ZEELAND, Mich. — The Trump administration has a vision for U.S. manufacturers: It wants them to rely less on overseas factories and to hire and train more American workers.
Easier said than done? Well, Michigan mirror-maker Gentex Inc. offers a glimpse of what the future might look like in the Trump era. The supplier has figured out a way to move production from overseas to the American Midwest — and things are working out just fine.
In recent years, Gentex closed its two foreign plants in low-wage Mexico and China and consolidated all production into a single factory complex in western Michigan. The Zeeland plant now produces self-dimming mirrors, garage door openers and everything else in the Gentex product catalog for global markets.
This is the sort of business model the new president is pressing manufacturers to adopt. But Gentex designed its plan not for political reasons, but for purely competitive ones as its products become more complex. And for champions of the push to create U.S. automotive jobs, Gentex has sobering news: Making modern car parts in America today is going to take a whole lot of robots.
Factory automation is what made it possible for Gentex to move production from overseas to the Midwest.