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Kent Bicycles: Reshoring Bike Production to South Carolina


Kent Bicycles is investing $4.3 million to construct a bicycle manufacturing facility in Clarendon County, South Carolina. The new factory, which is expected to bring 175 jobs to the region, is part of WalMart’s U.S. Manufacturing initiative. The retailer has pledged to buy $50 billion more from U.S. manufacturers by 2024 than it does now, with a goal of helping to strengthen the middle class.

About 500,000 bicycles will be manufactured each year at the new plant. They will be delivered to WalMart, ToysRUs and other retailers about 90 percent assembled, according to Kent Bicycles, which is based in New Jersey. Kent was founded in 1958, and since the 1990s, all of its bikes were made overseas. Arnold Kamler, the CEO, recently said that labor costs in China are rising (a note sounded by many manufacturers). That makes U.S. production less expensive, comparatively, than it was 10 to 20 years ago. So as global sales grew, Kent began to consider whether it could open a U.S. factory in addition to the one in China. 

Manufacturing is a high priority in South Carolina, which has specialized in recruiting manufacturers like Kent. Since January 2011, the state has attracted more than $12.4 billion in capital investment and 31,000 jobs in the manufacturing sector. Kent Bicycles considered several states for its U.S. plant, and weighed the incentives it was offered, along with other factors. Among the reasons Kent chose South Carolina are its deepwater ports, high connectivity by highway to major population centers, and its right-to-work policies, all of which help make it an easy state in which to do business.