January 12. 2012 2:00AM - Last modified: March 15. 2012 12:08PM

Master Lock CEO discusses ‘insourcing’ with Obama

  

John Heppner, president and CEO of Master Lock, took part in President Barack Obama's forum on "Insourcing American Jobs" at the White House Wednesday.

Heppner stood on stage directly behind Obama as the president made his remarks at the forum. Master Lock has insourced, or brought back to the United States from abroad, about 100 jobs since mid-2010.

Master Lock is headquartered in Oak Creek and operates a production plant in Milwaukee.

During his speech, Obama called Master Lock an iconic company and discussed its recent insourcing efforts.

"Today, for the first time in 15 years, Master Lock's Milwaukee complex is running at full capacity," Obama said.

Heppner and 14 other company leaders also met with Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and several cabinet members at the forum.

"We talked about insourcing jobs. We talked about why companies are doing that, why more companies aren't doing it," Heppner told BizTimes. "I had a lot of questions on what are we doing from a skilled trades perspective? We're limited in terms of our ability to gain access to skilled labor."

A lot of skilled labor left the manufacturing field when companies downsized over the last 10 years, and the current workforce in skilled trades is aging, Heppner said. Younger generations aren't entering manufacturing as readily after seeing their parents laid off from skilled trades, he said.

Master Lock moved about 900 of its 1,200 jobs to China and Mexico in the late 1990s. The company is now looking to continue insourcing those jobs back to the United States because labor and benefit rates are rising dramatically in China, freight costs are going up and Chinese currency is appreciating in value, he said..

Insourcing makes economic sense and it also puts production closer to Master Lock's customer base, Heppner said. The company is making a multi-million dollar investment in its U.S. plants and machinery to prepare for further job creation.

"We're growing every year. We're doing well as a business," he said.

Heppner said he was glad to be a part of the forum and grateful Obama spent the whole morning with the group.

"It was a unique experience, it was a good experience," he said. "It was good to be there and to listen to him speak. I think he's genuinely interested in the jobs issue, obviously."

Master Lock is the world's largest manufacturer of padlocks and related security products.


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