Starbucks Corp (SBUX) on Tuesday will debut the first products in a line of U.S.-made mugs and other merchandise that will be sold in its roughly 7,000 U.S. cafes to support domestic manufacturing and raise money for its Create Jobs for USA fund.
The move from the world's biggest coffee chain follows Chief Executive Howard Schultz's call to fellow executives to step up hiring and take a bigger role in the country's economic revival.
Domestic manufacturing, once a pillar of the economy, has been hard-hit by globalization. The industry now employs about 12 million people, down from a peak of nearly 20 million around 1980, according to data from the U.S. Department of Labor.
The new line of U.S.-made merchandise includes a 16-ounce acrylic tumbler made in Chicago, whole bean coffee that is blended, roasted and packaged in the United States and a 16-ounce ceramic mug made with domestically sourced raw materials at the American Mug & Stein factory in East Liverpool, Ohio.
That formerly struggling factory in what was once known as the pottery capital of the United States expanded its workforce from 14 to 22 after the Starbucks order, the coffee chain said.
While that does little to offset the jobs lost when Starbucks closed roughly 600 U.S. cafes during its ultimately successful turnaround in 2008 and 2009, the move signals growing corporate interest in bringing back U.S. factory jobs.
The company partnered with the Opportunity Finance Network, a group of private lenders, to start Create Jobs for USA late last year. Starbucks will make a donation to the fund for each U.S.-made product sold.
Putting aside all the policy issues, is playing up economic nationalism a good corporate strategy? Will it help the image of Starbucks with US consumers? Conversely, will it have the reverse impact on foreign consumers? Or is Starbucks promoting domestic manufacturing jobs in all of its markets?