Walmart & the U.S. Conference of Mayors Award $4 Million Spark Innovation in Manufacturing

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Walmart, the Walmart Foundation and the U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM), kicked off a new chapter in the modern American manufacturing story, as the global retailer announced the first grant recipients of the Walmart U.S. Manufacturing Innovation Fund’s $10 million commitment at the 2nd U.S. Manufacturing Summit in Denver. The summit is bringing together manufacturers suppliers, governors and mayors from across 42 states.

Seven research and development institutions were awarded a total of $4 million in grants to create new processes, ideas, and job creation that will foster America’s growing manufacturing footprint. The fund, which focuses on the development of domestic manufacturing with a specific goal of advancing the production or assembly of consumer products in the U.S., will provide a total of $10 million in grants over the next five years.

“Innovation is part of the heart and soul of Walmart,” said Michelle Gloeckler, Walmart’s executive president of consumables and U.S. manufacturing. “By investing in American ingenuity originating everywhere from the research lab to the assembly line, we can transform our approach to manufacturing to be more cost-effective and efficient. We can bring more jobs and more production back into American communities.”

The grant recipients were selected for their ability to address two key areas that currently present barriers to increased domestic manufacturing:

  • Reducing the cost of textiles manufacturing, including home textiles and apparel, in the U.S. by addressing obstacles throughout production.
  • Improving common manufacturing processes with broad application to many types of consumer products.

“It’s only fitting to work with the nation’s largest retailer on this initiative, a company that is committed to U.S. manufacturing and creating more jobs to help boost the U.S. economy,” said Kevin Johnson, President of the U.S. Conference of Mayors and mayor of Sacramento. “The projects recognized today are some of the best ways we’ve seen to bring American manufacturing into the Cities 3.0 era, helping to create hubs of innovation, entrepreneurship, and technology. Cities 3.0 is the next era of the American city, where cities are becoming the laboratories and incubators of change by supporting projects like the ones recognized today.”

The 2014 Walmart U.S. Manufacturing Innovation Fund grant winners are:

  • Georgia Tech Research Corporation for innovation of thread-count-based fabric motion control, a critical enabling technology for the automated production of sewn goods.
  • Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis (IUPUI) to advance and accelerate the industrial implementation of metal 3-D printing for the manufacturing of plastic injection tooling as an alternative to current metal-shaping practices.
  • North Carolina State University College of Textiles to address challenges to manufacturing of furniture cushions in the U.S. by implementing new technologies in both fabric printing and cut-and-sew automation.
  • Oregon State University todevelop two novel alternative mold fabricating approaches, and evaluate for functionality, precision and cost reduction potential.
  • Texas Tech University to support collaborative research on cotton breeding and biotechnology, cotton production, and various aspects of textile manufacturing, dyeing efficiency and specialty finishes.
  • University of Texas at Arlington to develop a novel manufacturing system that will autonomously prepare small motor sub-systems and assemble the motor components.
  • University of Georgia Research Foundation to develop an innovative approach to fabric dyeing that will greatly reduce, and perhaps eliminate, the need for water in dyeing cotton and cotton/polyester fabrics and yarns.

The Innovation Fund is  part of  Walmart’s broader commitment to help revitalize U.S.-based manufacturing. In January 2013, Walmart announced the retailer would buy an additional $250 billion in products supporting American manufacturing and American jobs by 2023.

Together, these commitments represent a  investment that will help accelerate the pace of U.S. manufacturing. By making production in the U.S. more cost effective and efficient, the retailer believes it can bring American consumers an increasing number of American-made products and ultimately create more jobs in communities across the country.



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Christopher Durham

Christopher Durham is the president of My Private Brand and the co-founder of The Vertex Awards. He is a strategist, author, consultant and retailer who built brands at Delhaize-owned Food Lion, and lead strategy and brand development for Lowe’s Home Improvement. He has consulted with retailers around the world on their private brand portfolios including: Family Dollar, Petco, Staples, Office Depot, Best Buy, Metro (Canada), TLW (Taiwan) and Hola (Taiwan).

Durham has published five definitive books on private brands, including his first book, Fifty2: The My Private Brand Project. In 2017, he will debut his newest book, Vanguard: Vintage Originals, a visual tour of innovation and disruption in private brand going back to the mid-1800’s.
Dynamic in his presentation while down to earth and frank in his opinions, he has presented at numerous conferences, including FUSE, The Dieline Conference, Packaging that Sells, Omnishopper and PLMA’a annual trade show in Chicago.

Durham lives in Charlotte, NC with his wife, Laraine, and two daughters, Olivia and Sarah.