Silicon, USA: Technology That’s Actually Made in America

The United States of America

(Credit: Bob Al-Greene)

“Designed by Apple in California.” That tag is in every iPhone box, conjuring the vision of thousands of minds in Cupertino feverishly inventing the latest technology. But once Apple comes up with the plans for an AirTag or iMac, those plans are shipped overseas. It’s been decades since Silicon Valley, the heart of American computing, has made many of its own devices.

A 2022 Harris Poll conducted with Retail Brew about shopping preferences shows that Americans want to buy more US-made products, as long as those products don’t cost more than their competitors. Seventy-two percent of poll respondents seek out American-made products; 48% say they’d pay 10% to 20% more for a guaranteed “made in America” product.

Manufacturing jobs in the US tend to be good jobs; at least, they’re better than selling imported products. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, assemblers and fabricators earn an average of $41,420 per year, while retail sales workers make $32,500.

“Our nation is falling behind its biggest competitors on research and development (R&D), manufacturing, and training. It has never been more important for us to invest in strengthening our infrastructure and competitiveness, and in creating the good-paying union jobs of the future,” the Biden administration stated in a 2021 executive order.

Generally, American electronics manufacturing is about making high-value, high-quality products with a focus on customer support. But that means the affordable gadgets that stock Walmart shelves, by and large, will be made abroad into the future.

Manufacturing is also about national autonomy, tech leaders told us. US factories are subject to US laws, and they’re physically proximate to US customers. Even when our products are made in allied countries such as Mexico and South Korea, we lose the ability to affect everything from working conditions to consumer rights when we cross borders.

“If all the manufacturing is in Asia…what if those switches go off?” asks Greg Slater, Intel VP and senior director of global and regulatory affairs. “Qualcomm and Apple and others should be concerned. If a switch goes off in Taiwan, for whatever reason, you’re stranded.”

“There’s an opening here for Joe Biden to really be a ‘Made in America’ president,” Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM) President Scott Paul told CNN. 

To survey the current state of American high-tech manufacturing, we found 43 companies across the country that are building technology devices in five categories: chips, PCs and servers, consumer electronics, home audio, and electric vehicles and EV batteries. The list isn’t exhaustive; we included only companies for which we could verify US manufacturing or assembly.

These companies are large and small, with factories in California, Vermont, and in between. Generally, American electronics manufacturing is about making high-value, high-quality products with a focus on customer support. But that means the majority of the affordable gadgets found on Walmart shelves will continue to be made abroad for the foreseeable future. 

Browse the companies by interacting with the map above, using the locations list below the map, or clicking on the city thumbnails at the end of the story. Then go forth and buy American!

Why Companies Build in America

Turntable testing at U-Turn Audio in Woburn, MA. (Photo by Lane Turner/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Turntable testing at U-Turn Audio in Woburn, MA (Credit: Lane Turner/The Boston Globe/Getty Images)

Politicians can tell you why we should build things in America: for national security and jobs. But the companies we spoke to had other reasons for sticking around in the US.

One reason, of course, is sheer pride and community feeling. U-Turn Audio’s Ben Carter “always wanted to build a company here in Massachusetts and employ people from our community,” he said. Carter now has a full staff building turntables in Woburn.

In large part, it’s also about customer care. Most of the companies we spoke to wanted to be physically closer to their customers, so they could be more responsive in delivery and customer service. The audio and PC builders we spoke to, especially, said that bringing design, assembly, and support under one roof makes for a higher-quality product with better customer satisfaction.

Most of the companies we spoke to wanted to be physically closer to their customers, so they could be more responsive in delivery and customer service.

MSI may be a Taiwanese company, but it brought production to the US so it could be nimble when responding to American consumers’ needs. “MSI is known to be one of the fastest-launching partners whenever a new generation [of tech] comes out,” system product management director Clifford Chun said. “By producing in the USA, we are able to have all available parts in stock and ‘air in’ whatever is newest. [Ship] transportation from Asia has gone up in time from three weeks to over two months, these days.”

Container ships wait in line to be unloaded at the Ports of LA and Long Beach, November 2020. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Container ships wait in line to be unloaded at the Ports of LA and Long Beach, November 2020. (Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times/Getty Images)

Also, there are ecological considerations: Manufacturing locally is more environmentally friendly, cable manufacturer OFS pointed out. According to the UK newspaper The Independent, cargo ships are an environmental disaster, burning “heavy and toxic” fuel made from the “dregs left over at the end of the refinery process.” Building weighty things, such as cars or spools of fiber-optic cable, near where customers are located helps reduce manufacturing’s impact on the Earth.

For Teledye FLIR, which makes infrared camera sensors, there’s yet another reason: Many of its products are used by government agencies. Those agencies tend to have “buy American”—or at the very least, “don’t buy Chinese”—requirements. “Some of the products FLIR makes are defense-related, and due to government regulations, we need to manufacture them within the US, typically with certain US components,” said FLIR spokesman Paul Clayton.

Finally, drone maker Skydio called out the US’s “asymmetric advantages” in certain areas, such as artificial intelligence (AI), as a reason to build here. “Skydio benefits from America’s leadership in artificial intelligence. Our founders met as graduate students at MIT,” the company said.

FLIR agreed, pointing out that Goleta, CA, has been a center of excellence in IR technologies since the 1960s.

The Chips Are Down

According to the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) 2023 Factbook, the US semiconductor (chip) industry claimed 48% of the market share in 2022. Chips are a major US export, worth $61.1 billion. But though many are owned and designed by American companies, not that many chips are actually made in the US. Fabs in America manufacture only about 12% of the semiconductors worldwide. That’s down from 37% in 1990.

Chipmaker jobs are good ones, and there tend to be a lot of them. SIA said the US semiconductor industry employed 307,000 people in 2022; each one, in turn, supports 5.7 other jobs, so it has a big impact. But obviously, with an increase in US chip manufacturing, the impact could be even larger.

The SIA said a new fab (a high-tech fabrication site for chips, also called a foundry) generally requires 3,000 to 6,000 employees. It takes about two years to build a fab and another 1.5 years to bring it up to speed, said Intel’s Slater.

Intel semiconductor makers

Workers in in cleanroom “bunny suits” at Intel’s fab in Chandler, Arizona (Credit: Intel Corp.)

So why are we so far behind on manufacturing? One potential clue: “The governments and companies of Taiwan and Korea understood that investing in homegrown fabs was a long-term way for them to continue to grow their tech sectors and manufacturing capabilities,” said analyst Anshel Sag of Moor Insights.

The US punches far above its weight in chip design, as opposed to manufacturing—but that doesn’t create manufacturing jobs. SIA notes that most US chip companies contract out to foreign foundries now. Qualcomm is a perfect example of this split. The world’s second-largest mobile chipset manufacturer is a mainstay of the San Diego economy, but it’s (mostly) “fabless.” That’s exactly what it sounds like—fabless chip companies design semiconductors but don’t own a facility to build the products. Nvidia, AMD, and even Apple are all good examples. They leave the chip building to fab companies such as TSMC and GlobalFoundries.

US Chipmakers and Component Manufacturers

The following is a sample of the companies making chips and components in the US:

  • Corning Gorilla Glass, in Harrodsburg, KY, covers the screens of your favorite mobile phones.

  • Ericsson’s Smart Factory in Lewisville, TX, builds 5G base stations for US wireless carriers.

  • GlobalFoundries makes chips and wafers in NY and VT.

  • Intel’s processors are manufactured in several US states.

  • Micron produces DRAM and NAND flash memory at multiple locations in the US.

  • OFS makes giant spools of fiber-optic cable for internet connections.

  • PNY, based in Parsippany, NJ, assembles flash drives.

  • Qorvo makes some of the RF chips that go into iPhones.

  • Samsung has been making chips in Austin, TX, since 1996.

  • Skyworks is Qorvo’s top competitor for board space in iPhones.

  • Texas Instruments (TI) makes a range of chips at its plant in Richardson, TX.

“Integrated fabless manufacturing enables QTI [Qualcomm Technologies, Inc.] to produce modern processors which are optimized for price, performance, and power efficiency, through sourcing multiple foundries at various process nodes,” the company said in a 2014 white paper. 

Sag said that US investors “have traditionally seen fabs inside chip companies as a liability more than an asset” and have encouraged the decoupling of the design of chips from the actual manufacturing. “It’s extremely capital-intensive, depreciation is significant, and there is very little incentive to build capacity beyond demand,” he said.

The SIA estimated that a $50 billion incentive program would vault the US up to producing 24% of the world’s chips, with 19 fabrication plants.

As the industry decoupled, new foundries were not built in the US. “As much as 40% to 70% of the higher cost for US-based fabs is directly attributable to much lower incentives than those currently provided in China, Taiwan, Singapore, and other countries,” said the SIA. These “incentives” can take many forms; While the US is really good at giving tax breaks, the SIA said, Taiwan hands out massive subsidies for construction and equipment and has lower labor costs. Those incentives make more of a difference to manufacturers.

“Leading-edge fabs require a $10-billion-to-$20-billion investment and significant support from the government. By some estimates, it costs two to three times more to build an advanced fab in the US than in Taiwan,” said Strategy Analytics analyst Sravan Kundojjala.

The SIA estimated that a $50 billion incentive program would vault the US up to producing 24% of the world’s chips, with 19 fabrication plants. (See “Bringing Manufacturing Back to the USA,” below, for more on that topic.)

The US would also have to train workers. “There’s a significant gap in terms of skilled workers that are needed to run these fabs,” Sag pointed out. Kundojjala estimated it would take five to ten years of education for the US to match the leaders in terms of a semiconductor manufacturing workforce.

Even More Reason to Make Our Own Chips

Over the past few decades, manufacturers have been swept up by the “just-in-time” inventory philosophy, in which manufacturers hold very few excess parts. This strategy assumes suppliers will always be able to deliver parts on demand. But that doesn’t work in a world of frequent, unpredictable supply chain interruptions.

Manufacturing became a hot topic during the height of the COVID pandemic because of the worldwide chip shortage. General Motors had to periodically shut down truck assembly plants because of a lack of chips. According to a July 2021 report from Wave7, that shortage affected “everybody but Apple,” which locked in its chip supply well in advance (and surely paid a premium for that).

Apple has used its own silicon for a while. But it doesn’t make the chips, and they aren’t manufactured in the US. That might change in 2024, when Apple will begin sourcing chips from a plant in Arizona, as it revealed in an earnings call in November 2022. The plant will likely be the $40 billion dollar fab (actually several fabs) being built on a 1,129-acre parcel near Peoria, AZ, north of Phoenix, by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (better known as TSMC). TSMC has plans for major US expansion even beyond this, despite some internal tensions. Nevertheless, TSMC’s website shows the company is hiring in the US. It expects to create 4,500 jobs eventually and churn out 600,000 silicon wafers a year.

Building more chip plants helps, but there are other supply problems. It looks like sporadic chip-plant shutdowns will continue: Samsung lost $270 million when it shut down a Texas factory for a month in February 2021 because of a winter storm. Similarly, a COVID surge in the summer of 2021 in Malaysia expanded the chip shortage by causing plant shutdowns there.

A COVID surge in the summer of 2021 in Malaysia expanded the chip shortage by causing plant shutdowns there.

The shortage has subsided since then. But if the industry as a whole learns anything—and there’s no guarantee it will—then we’re entering a time when tech manufacturing may once again become more resilient.

Even if Asian chipmakers get their groove back, more chips being produced in the US can help US consumers, because, as both fiber manufacturer OFS and PC maker MSI pointed out, the problem isn’t just chips. It’s also ships. Trans-pacific shipping is highly problematic. Port shutdowns and blocked canals add to the misery. If a supply chain can be brought closer to North America’s 370 million consumers, the more likely it is that those consumers can get their cars and PCs on demand.

US Computer and Server Manufacturers

A worker assembles Apple's Mac Pros at the Flex computer manufacturing facility in Austin, Texas, on November 20, 2019.

Mac Pro assembly in Austin, Texas (Credit: MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

It’s impossible to build a PC entirely without foreign parts, but these firms handle primary assembly in the US:

  • Apple (actually Flex) builds Mac Pro models in TX.

  • Datto builds backup servers in CT.

  • DigitalStorm produces gaming PCs in CA.

  • Falcon Northwest has been building high-end PCs in OR since 1992.

  • HP Enterprise builds some servers in WI.

  • Lenovo has a small assembly operation in NC.

  • MSI builds some of its Aegis and Codex desktops in the US.

  • Origin PC makes all of its computers in FL.

  • Supermicro servers for the US are often made in CA.

  • Every Velocity Micro PC is assembled by hand in VA.

Is an All-American PC Possible?

Nope. Although PCs are built in the United States, it’s impossible to build them solely from US components. That’s true of all of the complex electronics in our study and is unlikely to change, according to experts.

“PCB [printed circuit board] manufacturing and assembly is a very low-margin business and is largely located in Asia. It comes down to access to low-cost labor, a vast ecosystem of factory infrastructure, and flexibility. It is hard to replicate the ecosystem in the US today,” said Strategy Analytics’s Kundojjala. 

Workers assemble laptop computer on the assembly line at Hasee Computer company's manufacturing center in Shenzhen, Guangdong, China.

Workers assemble laptop computer on the assembly line at Hasee Computer company’s manufacturing center in Shenzhen, Guangdong, China. (Credit: Ryan Pyle/Corbis/Getty Images)

Velocity Micro’s Josh Covington agreed. “With the exception of a few processors, the majority of components still have overseas origins. Taiwan, China, and Japan are so far ahead of us in terms of manufacturing infrastructure and cheap labor, it’s virtually impossible for component manufacturers to bring production back to the US and still be price-competitive,” he said.

In general, PCs built in the US are high-end, low-volume models, such as Apple’s premium Mac Pros and Origin’s gaming PCs. A 2019 New York Times report explains why: “Apple has found that no country—and certainly not the United States—can match China’s combination of scale, skills, infrastructure, and cost,” it said, citing the massive existing infrastructure of everything from screw vendors to assembly lines in China.

Falcon Northwest

Falcon Northwest’s webpage regarding building PCs in the US (Credit: Falcon Northwest)

Kelt Reeves, the president at gaming PC builder Falcon Northwest says it’s important “that we don’t mislead people about all the foreign-made components, even by our supplier neighbors here in Oregon, like Intel.  Something like ‘Made in the USA’ is too simplistic with a global supply chain, so we try to spell it out on our website.”

American workers cost more and demand better working conditions than Chinese workers do, according to the Times report. That raises the prices and lowers the potential volume of American products. When we looked at PC, consumer electronics, and electric bike manufacturers in the US, we found that, in general, they produce high-cost, high-quality, and high-performance products. They do not make the inexpensive (cheap) gear on the shelves of your local big-box store.

When we looked at PC, consumer electronics, and electric bike manufacturers in the US, we found that, in general, they produce high-cost, high-quality, and high-performance products.

If we want PCs made by high-wage US workers who live in average US homes, we’re going to have to come to terms with the cost of making that happen.

“Consumers need to adjust their pricing expectations. We’ve all become so accustomed to cheap tech over the past few decades, but the truth is that tech is cheap because overseas production is cheap. We also need more companies willing to innovate and invest in production here, despite those higher costs,” Covington said.

One of those companies may be Flex (it was called Flextronics until 2015). As noted above, a Flex plant in Austin, TX, builds the Mac Pro for Apple. But although Flex has a number of manufacturing locations in the US, a company spokesperson told PCMag, “Unfortunately, due to confidentiality agreements with our customers, I am not able to disclose which companies we are manufacturing for and the relevant products.”

Consumer Electronics and Audio Makers

Man carving Klipsch speaker cabinets

Some Klipsch speaker cabinets are carved by hand in Arkansas. (Credit: Klipsch)

Many high-end audio brands are still made at least partially in the US; some other higher-end consumer electronics are made here, too.

  • Audeze headphones are assembled in CA.

  • Clark Blumenstein handcrafts wooden speaker cabinets in TN.

  • Dan Clark Audio makes its headphones in CA.

  • Teledyne FLIR builds infrared camera sensors in CA.

  • Some Klipsch speaker cabinets are still carved by hand in AR.

  • McIntosh Labs audio products are all made in Binghamton, NY.

  • Planar builds “video walls” of multiple LCD panels in OR.

  • RED cameras are assembled in CA.

  • Séura televisions disappear into attractive wall mirrors; they’re made in WI.

  • Skydio, the top US manufacturer of drones, is located in CA.

  • Starlink manufactures consumer satellite terminals in WA and is hiring for a factory in TX.

  • Sunbrite TVs are made for the outdoors in sunny southern CA.

  • U-Turn Audio turntables have always been made in MA.

The Fakers

You’re not legally allowed to slap a “Made in the USA” label on a product that isn’t made in the USA, by decree of the Federal Trade Commission. It has to be “all or virtually all” made here. But this label gets abused. Companies may use it to play at patriotism, but more likely, they’re making a play for subsidies.

Element Electronics sells TVs through Walmart and claims it has “the only mass assembly television factory in the United States. The Winnsboro, South Carolina, factory employs over 400 workers and delivers more than 1 million televisions each year.” 

But in 2014, the Alliance for American Manufacturing discovered that Element’s “assemblers” in the US were just taking a Chinese-made TV and inserting a Chinese-made memory card into it. That led to a Federal Trade Commission complaint, which foundered on quibbles over what a “substantial transformation” of a product is.

Element was playing the same game as of 2021, South Carolina–based FITSNews reported. The company received millions in government subsidies and property tax breaks for its US factory, which FITSNews said really just checks and repackages Chinese products: “We have spoken with sources who have been inside Element’s Winnsboro, SC, facility as recently as last month who tell us its ‘screwdriver’ manufacturing process remains in place. Specifically, they claim the ‘mechanical testing’ consists entirely of plugging the televisions into an outlet and turning them on … that’s it.”

That “substantial transformation” bit is tricky. The International Trade Administration said a substantial transformation must involve “a fundamental change … which adds to its value,” and that “usually a new article of commerce—normally one with a different name—is found to result.” Sticking a memory card in a TV does add to its value, but it doesn’t create a device with a different name, and it wouldn’t pass most people’s smell tests.

Former President Donald Trump at a groundbreaking for a Wisconsin Foxconn facility in 2018. (BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

Former President Donald Trump at the groundbreaking for a Wisconsin Foxconn facility in 2018 (Credit: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

We have two TV manufacturers on our list—Seura and Sunbrite. The difference between these companies and Element’s reported “transformation” is huge. No TV panels are made in the US; they’re all imported. But the “real” US TV makers turn the units into something different, by incorporating them into mirrors or pumping up the backlights and installing them in weatherproof housings. 

The dream of US-made LCD panels (and more US jobs) led the Trump administration and the Wisconsin state government into a 2017 deal with Foxconn to build a huge plant with 13,000 jobs in Mount Pleasant, WI. But as a massive investigation from The Verge revealed in late 2020, Foxconn betrayed all its promises. It never built an LCD factory; it played fast and loose with hiring requirements and did very little manufacturing. The company promised it would invest $10 billion but had invested only 3% of that amount.

The ‘real’ US TV makers turn the units into something different, by incorporating them into mirrors or pumping up the backlights and installing them in weatherproof housings. 

In April 2021, the project crashed to Earth with a new deal in which Foxconn said it would deliver fewer than 1,500 jobs, according to CNN; it currently claims to employ only about 1,000 workers. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported in March 2023 that the site was downgraded to make screens—but still hasn’t made any. Foxconn’s tax credits dropped, but the company still took in $37 million within the last two years.

Naturally, Foxconn is being or has been sued by multiple groups, including former land owners, real estate companies, and employees. Rumors say it could make servers for Google or EV batteries, but no one has confirmed this. Foxconn did buy the Lordstown Motors plant in Lordstown, OH, at about this same time, for $230 million.

General Motors Orion Assembly Plant in Orion Township, Michigan. (Photo by Steve Fecht for Chevrolet)

General Motors Orion Assembly Plant in Orion Township, Michigan (Credit: Steve Fecht for Chevrolet)

The future of US electric cars looks exciting, though, whether or not Foxconn’s vaporware ever turns into anything real. Several companies already make mass-market electric cars here, including Ford: Its F-150 is the most popular truck in America, and the company builds the electric version in Michigan. Rivian and Lordstown are electric-truck startups that are repurposing old auto plants in the Midwest to build next-generation vehicles.

Electric Vehicle Manufacturers

Here are some of the EV companies developing in the US:

  • Chevrolet’s electric Bolt and GMC Hummer EVs are built in MI.

  • The Electric Bike Co. builds beautiful electric bicycles in CA.

  • Ford built the first F-150 Lightning truck in MI in 2022.

  • All Livewire electric motorcycles are made by Harley-Davidson in PA.

  • Lordstown Endurance is a troubled electric-truck manufacturer in OH.

  • The Nissan Leaf electric car is built in TN.

  • Rivian’s electric cars are manufactured in IL.

  • Tesla’s huge factory in northern CA churns out electric cars.

  • Zero Motorcycles’ electric motorbikes are made in CA.

Bringing Manufacturing Back to the USA

US President Donald Trump (C) signs Section 201 actions to impose tariffs with United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, on January 23, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)

Trump signs off on tariffs in 2018 with USTR Robert Lighthizer. (Credit: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images))

Figuring out how to breathe life back into American high-tech manufacturing has been a focus of both the Trump and Biden administrations.

Under Trump, much of the action was around tariffs. According to the AAM’s Scott Paul, “Trump took action. He imposed tariffs on some imported steel. He renegotiated NAFTA and withdrew from entering the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement. For a few months, he jawboned at companies that were offshoring jobs. He negotiated an agreement with China and has kept tariffs on many Chinese imports.”

But Paul ultimately saw Trump’s moves as a lot of rhetoric with few results. “His grandiose rhetoric and erratic policies on trade and manufacturing didn’t usher in a new era of prosperity for factory towns. Many are in fact worse off than when he entered office,” Paul concluded.

President Biden’s approach appears to be focused more on investment; more carrot than stick. Biden released an executive order assessing “America’s supply chains” in February 2021 and a detailed jobs and workforce development plan that March.

Biden talks American Jobs Plan

President Biden discusses the American Jobs Plan in May 2021. (Credit: MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Biden’s “American Jobs Plan,” announced in March 2021, asked for a bevy of investments: $52 billion for domestic manufacturers, $31 billion for small-business incubators and access to credit, $20 billion for 10 “regional innovation hubs,” $46 billion for direct purchases of products such as American-made electric cars, and $50 billion for an office at the Department of Commerce dedicated to investing in critical US supply chains.

By the end of last year, chipmakers have reportedly said they’d launch 40-plus projects (including new fabs) worth $200 billion

For the semiconductor industry, the biggest deal is the Creating Helpful Incentives for Producing Semiconductors (CHIPS) Act, which was signed in August of 2022. The CHIPS legislation authorizes the Department of Commerce to provide semiconductor makers with billions in subsidies. Of course, that funding comes with strings, including sharing some profits with the government.

Strings or not, CHIPS is working. By the end of last year, chipmakers have reportedly said they’d launch 40-plus projects (including new fabs) worth $200 billion—all projects that will be Made in the USA.

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