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Does Starbucks Create Jobs For USA?

Thu, 11/17/2011 - 6:25am
Rachel Leisemann Immel, Associate Editor, IMPO

Next time you stop for a cup of coffee, you can help support American jobs.

For the price of a gingerbread latte, you can do your part “to help get this country back up on its feet,” complete with symbolic wristband, available with a $5 donation and emblazoned with the word “indivisible.”

The coffee chain Starbucks has recently launched a program to help small U.S. businesses get started. The “Create Jobs for USA” campaign will provide capital grants to select Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) to “bring people and communities together to create and sustain jobs throughout America.” Joining forces with the Opportunity Finance Network, Starbucks has seeded the program with an initial $5 million donation.

With an unemployment rate at 9.1 percent (not including the number of people who have given up looking for work), the U.S. job market could use all the help it can get. One hurdle manufacturers face, both domestics and start-ups, is finding the money to expand or launch. Number one on The American Alliance for Manufacturing’s plan to expand American production is “establish a manufacturing investment facility to leverage private capital for domestic manufacturing.” Looks like someone was listening.

While they appreciate the positive impact Starbucks’ program could have on U.S. businesses, the American Alliance for Manufacturing dug a little deeper into Starbucks’ dedication to American-made.

They discovered that, unfortunately, Starbucks’ dedication is limited to its new program and accompanying gear. At the first Starbucks they visited, they found only one American made item (not counting the wristband). At the second, nothing. I checked out my own local Starbucks, and I only found one travel mug and one glass mug made in the United States. The disposable cup my hot tea arrived in, which I can only assume was at least the millionth Starbucks has served thus far this year, was at least made in the United States. But the majority of mugs, tea pots, and other coffee-related paraphernalia were made in China.

Starbucks would do well to emulate their own campaign, and truly support American manufacturers. With over 11,000 shops across the country, they’re definitely in a position to do so. The symbolic wristbands are so that “all of us” can show our support, indivisible—united. And through these donations, I suppose we can be. But when a company touts American-made and creates a campaign to collect money from other Americans—shouldn’t they be doing everything they can to support American manufacturers?

According to the campaign’s website, 100 percent of every donation goes to the Opportunity Finance Network, and the wristbands are made in the U.S. with all component materials manufactured by U.S. suppliers. This “Create Jobs for USA” campaign has great potential—and has already created success stories for businesses across America. Peninsula Plywood in Washington was able to reopen, Dupont Building in Louisiana was able to get back into action, and the Workers Defense Project in Texas was able to expand. A charitable organization that’s focused on getting Americans back to work is a great entrepreneurial solution to help get the U.S. economy back on track.

But if Starbucks really wants to help American businesses, and manufacturers, they need to start selling American-made products. I felt like I was looking for gold searching the shelves of my local Starbucks. An American-based coffee shop that sponsors a campaign to sustain American jobs needs to have at least one American-made mug in every store.

At least the wristband is made in America.

Do you think Starbucks is being hypocritical? Let me know at Rachel.Immel@advantagemedia.com or post below.

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