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issue: October 2012 ApplianceMagazine.com

Stihl's Made-In-America Milestone

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Stihl Inc. succeeded by manufacturing in America - and its Virginia plant served as the launch pad for a Commerce Department initiative to spur more companies to insource their own production.

The Stihl Inc., plant in Virginia Beach, VA, produced its 50-millionth powerhead unit - a milestone exemplifying its long-term manufacturing success in the United States.

Stihl Inc., part of the worldwide Stihl Group, began U.S. operations in 1974 with 50 employees and a single chain saw model. It now has more than 2,000 employees in the United States, including 1,800 in Virginia Beach, producing a full line of handheld outdoor power equipment such as blowers, trimmers, brushcutters, and multi-task tools. In addition to the U.S. market, the company exports to more than 90 countries.

"We have chosen to consistently expand our manufacturing capabilities here in America, in-sourcing labor and production, and this milestone reflects the success of these efforts," said Fred Whyte, president of Stihl Inc. "Our two-step distribution process is another driving factor in our success."

Most Stihl blowers, trimmers, brushcutters, and other outdoor tools that are sold in the U.S. are made in the U.S. Its American-made products are also exported to 90 countries.

Unique Distribution

Whyte noted that the company's products are not available in big box mass merchants.

"Instead, we supply our regional branches and distributors, allowing us to quickly react to demand fluctuation across the country," Whyte said. "These strategically located distribution centers provide our product to more than 8,000 independent servicing dealers nationwide. This unique distribution, coupled with reliable and durable products and innovative marketing, has resulted in a year-to-date unit sales increase of over 5 percent, as compared to last year, and helped us become the number one selling brand of gasoline-powered handheld outdoor power equipment in America."

Evolving Manufacturing

"Vertical integration is at the heart of our manufacturing success, and unlike many other companies, we continue to increase our in-house component manufacturing capabilities and make our operation competitive globally while minimizing cost increases," Whyte said.

The most recent expansion to the Virginia Beach facility, a 55,000-square-foot addition to the accessories plant, doubled the size of the company's blow-molding operations.

Launch Pad for DoC Insourcing Initiative

Stihl's made-in-America success motivated the U.S. Department of Commerce to use the Virginia Beach plant to launch a $40 million insourcing initiative. The DoC wants to help accelerate the trend of in-sourcing and incentivize companies to bring jobs back to America and invest in American manufacturing.

"Stihl is only one of many global companies making the decision to invest more here in the U.S.," said Acting Secretary Rebecca Blank. "Stihl wanted to be here because America is home to their strongest consumer base. It's no surprise that Stihl considers this plant to be the model for its other facilities around the world."

Acting Secretary Blank held an event at the plant on October 2 to launch the Make it in America Challenge. The multi-agency competition seeks to accelerate the trend of insourcing.

Insourcing companies bring jobs back to the United States and make additional investments in-country. The competition is designed to build on the administration's bottom-up approach to strengthening the economy and creating jobs by partnering with state, regional, and local economies.

"By making competitive investments, the Challenge will help communities across the U.S. accelerate economic growth, attract business investment, and create jobs," Blank said at the launch event.

Competition details are available at:

The competition is funded by the U.S. Department of Commerce's Economic Development Administration (EDA), the National Institute of Standards and Technology Manufacturing Extension Partnership (NIST-MEP), and the U.S. Department of Labor's Employment and Training Administration (ETA).

Proof of American Manufacturing Competitiveness

"Some people may say that American manufacturing cannot compete in the world economy," said Whyte. "We disagree. American innovation, technology, and the American workers are second to none, and we are proving it."


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