Walmart's pledge to boost US manufacturing helps Missouri company | St. Louis Public Radio

Walmart's pledge to boost US manufacturing helps Missouri company

Jan 29, 2018

A Missouri company is benefiting big from Walmart’s effort to boost manufacturing in the United States.

Buddeez Inc., which makes milk crates, plastic storage bins and other products for Walmart and other retailers in Union, is in the midst of an expansion. Its growth is part of Walmart’s 10-year initiative to invest $250 billion in each of the 50 states.

“One of the great things about the partnership with Walmart is that we are able to expand our product base,” said Mark Horstman, senior vice president of sales at Buddeez. “We are able to expand to other retailers; we can sell more products to Walmart.

Buddeez has been in business for 25 years. It opened in Wentzville and moved its production to Union in 2007.

The Missouri company became a national brand on the strength of its product, the Bread Buddy, in the 1990s. The dispenser removes bread from packaging while preventing the slices from going stale.

Since then, Walmart became a major distributor for future Buddeez products. The manufacturer now sells its products at 3,400 Walmart stores nationwide.

Every day, 140 workers at the 40,000-square-foot factory transform beads into the products the company sells. The number of workers is growing: the Walmart-fueled expansion, which began in 2014, is creating 100 additional jobs.

Walmart’s support of local manufacturers marks a big shift for the nation’s largest retailer, which often has relied on overseas suppliers to keep prices low.

Buddeez employees gather on Jan. 12 for the announcement celebrating the creation of 100 jobs. This job growth was spurred by Walmart's initiative to create more domestic jobs.
Credit Chad Davis | St. Louis Public Radio

The company wants more U.S. manufacturers to make the products it sells, said Michael Lindsey, the director of public affairs for Walmart.

“Over the past few years, [Walmart has] focused on finding suppliers, working with suppliers, that can move products that were formerly made overseas, back to the U.S. to create new jobs,” Lindsey said.

“If you make a product that you see on the shelves at Walmart that you’re not selling, come reach out to us, touch base with us and let’s find a way to get those American-made products on the shelves.”

Retail analysts say domestic investments by large companies have increased. But what Walmart is doing is out of the ordinary, said Brian Yarbrough, a senior consumer analyst for Edward Jones.

“It is significant and I haven’t seen any other retailer throw out a number even close to that size,” Yarbrough said of Walmart’s $250 billion commitment through 2023. “Walmart is the one that has really pushed the envelope on the number and the size and the sheer scale of it.”

Walmart has a history of exerting pressure on the factories it works with to keep prices low. Some suppliers have said it is difficult to make money with the retailer because of that pressure, he said.

But given the pressure that large U.S. companies are under to hire American workers, Walmart’s investments in domestic suppliers may be well received.

“The big complaint is that all these retailers buy everything over in China or in some other international market and ship it over here because the labor costs are a lot lower,” Yarbrough said. Boosting U.S. companies “creates a lot of jobs for these local manufacturers. It creates stronger communities, and the whole thing definitely drives that entire market.”

In Union, with a population of about 11,000, Buddeez employees credit Walmart’s investment with giving them opportunities to move up.

“Buddeez, at one time was just a job, a way to get to the next week,” said Adam McFerrin, who has worked there since 2008. “Buddeez is no longer just a job; it’s a career.

“The company and my family have both grown rapidly over the past 10 years, and I’m excited to see where we go in the next 10.”

Follow Chad on Twitter @iamcdavis

Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled the name of Mark Horstman, senior vice president of sales at Buddeez Inc.