Apple plans to spend over $100 million in the next year to start producing Mac computers in the US. The move shifts a small segment of Apple production away from China, where the company has suffered criticism for harsh and dangerous working conditions at its Foxconn plant. Notably, Mac computers are easier to produce, making domestic production more achievable. Yet the company wanted to do more than just assemble the computer but actually build it entirely in the US, which requires considerable investment.
“We could have quickly maybe done just assembly, but it’s broader because we wanted to do something more substantial,” Apple’s CEO Tim Cook related in an extensive interview with Businessweek. “So we’ll literally invest over $100 million. This doesn’t mean that Apple will do it ourselves, but we’ll be working with people, and we’ll be investing our money.
“Next year we are going to bring some production to the U.S. on the Mac,” Cook also told the publication. “We’ve been working on this for a long time, and we were getting closer to it. It will happen in 2013. We’re really proud of it.”
Even before Cook gave his interview, traces of the production change had hit the web, with buyers reporting “Assembled in the USA” labels on newly bought Macs.
Apple had assembled many of its products in the US before moving most production to Asia to save on labor costs in the late ’90s. Several parts for the iPhone and iPad are already made in the US, including the display glass that is manufactured in Kentucky. Besides being headquartered in California where it designs its products, the company is building a campus in Austin, Texas. It is also expanding an existing data center in North Carolina, and has begun production on new data centers in Oregon and Nevada.
In the Bloomberg interview, Cook also defended Apple against criticism of Foxconn’s labor practices, pointing out the computer company enlisted the Fair Labor Association to audit Foxconn’s factories.
“We’re doing a number of things that I think are really great, really different, and industry-leading,” Cook said. “No one is looking at this as deeply as we are or going as deep in the supply chain.”
Though a new evolution for the company, Apple’s move to shift Mac production to the US will have minimal effect on the country’s 8 percent unemployment rate. The company’s sales are shifting away from Macs to the iPad, which is more complicated to produce domestically. Yet while its just a beginning effort, the move is a big change of heart that transitions the company’s image away from that of a near slave labor manufacturer.