The clamor for American jobs includes a clamor for American-made consumer goods. This may change when iPhones double in cost -- or when tiny American fingers start making soccer balls and tennis shoes for overseas markets. But for now, American companies are hopping on this very PR-friendly bandwagon.
Case in point: Google.
The Mountain View tech giant's Project Glass -- the $1,500 "Google glasses," already banned in a bar in Seattle -- will be manufactured in the United States at a Foxconn factory right here in the Bay Area, according to an anonymous source quoted today. Or at least the first few thousand devices, that'll be available only to lottery winners, will be made in Santa Clara.
Foxconn, of course, is the oft-maligned Chinese contractor used by Apple and other fixtures of the world economy to manufacture microchips and other highly lucrative consumer goods. As you might recall, Foxconn made headlines in 2010 for a "rash" of worker suicides; while some studies described the factories as "worker camps," the company's 800,000-plus employees enjoyed a lower suicide rate than the Chinese population as a whole.
Apple's enormous profit margins and its world-beating stock prices rely heavily on cheap Chinese labor prices. And Google will still rely on this same labor. Most of the components in the glasses (which offer users a heads-up display kind of like what jet fighter pilots have been enjoying since the Cold War, but with voice-activated photos, video and other stuff) will be made in Asia, with the "final assembly" in Santa Clara, according to Zdnet.
It sounds as if this is a limited run. There's no word as to how many jobs the Project Glass manufacturing run will "create," which means that as of now, there's no long-term plan to make the specs in the United States. There's also no solid date as to when Glass will be available at, say, Wal-Mart.
Google this week sent out 8,000 invitations to American consumers to buy the $1500 devices.
Every news report on Google's plan to build locally also mentioned President Barack Obama's desire to have more American manufacturing jobs. Glass will not as yet fulfill Obama's desire. After a quick search of the web this morning, it wasn't immediately clear how many factories Foxconn currently has in the United States. However, it should come as a sobering reality to read that Foxconn was as of last year eying locations in Detroit and Los Angeles for manufacturing sites... because Chinese labor costs were too high.