An excellent recent New York times article described why Apple ultimately decided to shift its production to China. As Steve Jobs told Barack Obama, “Those jobs aren’t coming back”. Apple kept its manufacturing plant in the U.S. longer than almost all of its competitors. Apple eventually realized it just could not compete using U.S. manufacturing plants. All of the products used in the supply chain are much cheaper in China, and more importantly they get the job done in the strict time -lines dictated by modern enterprise.
For example, when Apple needed to switch its initial iPhone to scratch-proof glass, “a foreman immediately roused 8,000 workers inside the company’s dormitories… and within half an hour they started a 12-hour shift fitting glass screens into beveled frames. Within 96 hours, the plant was producing over 10,000 iPhones a day.”
Where America does still have an advantage, is its innovation. This is why our top companies still keep their corporate headquarters here, at least for now. Often many of the workers they need are American, but sometimes the worker with the right complimentary skill-set is from a foreign country. This is especially true in the IT field. American companies need to be able to attract the best and the brightest in all fields without being stonewalled by government red-tape. Sure they might need to retain an immigration lawyer, to navigate the process, but there should always be a way for them to get the workers they need.
For example if a company wants to hire a highly skilled worker with a Master’s degree from another country, there is no easy solution. During part of the year they might be eligible for an H-1B visa, but once the cap is met, as it has been for the 2012 fiscal year, this is not a possibility. New visas aren’t released until October 2012, which is an eternity in today’s world. If the person is truly extraordinary they might qualify for an EB-1 green card or O-1 visa, but this is a tough standard that many talented people and especially younger individuals (as they can’t demonstrate sustained acclaim) will not be able to satisfy.
And this is only the problems for established company. Entrepreneurs face other visa issues that often present even tougher hurdles to overcome.