Apple will bring Mac manufacturing back to U.S. in 2013

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the number of engineers Apple needs to support factory workers.

December 6, 2012

Apple chief executive Tim Cook said that the company will start production for one Mac line in the United States — rather than China — starting next year, according to two new interviews.

Cook, in an interview posted online today with Bloomberg Businessweek and one with NBC’s Rock Center slated to air tonight, said that the company has been working to bring some of the production work on its Mac line to the United States in 2013.

In the Bloomberg interview, Cook said that Apple is investing more than $100 million to start the effort. He also noted that the glass for the iPhone and iPad are made in Kentucky. The processors for those devices also are made in the United States.

Cook also touched on the company’s efforts to improve working conditions in China through its partnership with Foxconn. He added that Apple is doing much more extensive research into its own supply line.

“We’re back to the mines,” he said. “We’re going all the way, not just at the first layer. And in addition to that, we’ve chosen to be incredibly transparent with it. I invite everyone to copy us.”

In a separate interview, NBC News anchor Brian Williams asked Cook what would happen, hypothetically, if Apple had to move all its production to the United States

“Honestly, it's not so much about price, it’s the the skills, etc. Over time, there are skills that are associated with manufacturing that have left the U.S. Not necessarily people, but the education system stopped producing them. It’s a concerted effort to get them back,” Cook said.

Williams asked how the United States could get back those skill sets to encourage more companies to produce their products here.

Replied Cook: “I think this is a really good, another step for us. And the consumer electronics world was really never here. So it’s not a matter of bringing it back, it’s a matter of starting it here.”

Cook did not specify which Mac line would be partially produced in the United States.

The exchanges echo a conversation between Apple’s late co-founder Steve Jobs and President Obama, detailed Walter Isaacson’s Jobs biography. Jobs once told Obama that some low-wage, low-skill manufacturing jobs “aren’t coming back” to the United States and that Apple needs 30,000 engineers on site to support 700,000 factory workers in China.

“You can’t find that many in America to hire,” Jobs said. “If you could educate those engineers, we could move more manufacturing plants here,” according to the biography.

The president seemed to reference that conversation in the second presidential debate in October. In response to a question about outsourcing of manufacturing jobs, he said, “There are some jobs that are not going to come back. If we’re not training engineers to make sure that they are equipped here in this country. Then companies won’t come here.”

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Apple outsourcing gets mention in presidential debate

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Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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