Apple made news and scored some positive PR earlier this month when the company announced a $1 billion fund aimed at investing in US-based manufacturing. Now it’s ready to announce the first big investment from its Advanced Manufacturing Fund. New York-based Corning Incorporated will be receiving $200 million from the tech giant’s coffers, money that will go toward its Harrodsburg, Kentucky R&D facility.
Corning is a logical first choice for Apple. The two companies have worked closely for roughly a decade, when Apple first pushed Corning to create a chemically strengthened glass for the iPhone. The resulting product, Gorilla Glass, has since become the standard for nearly every smartphone maker out there.
As Apple helpfully adds in a news release touting the funding, the relationship thus far “has created and sustained nearly 1,000 US jobs across Corning’s R&D, manufacturing and commercial functions, including over 400 in Harrodsburg.” And indeed, aside from a brief dalliance with synthetic sapphire crystal a couple of years back, it’s been a pretty fruitful partnership.
The funding, of course, comes as the national conversation has begun focusing more heavily on an attempt to return manufacturing jobs back to the US. Trump regularly name-checked Apple during his presidential campaign, even going so far as suggesting he would essentially force the company to make iPhones in the US, stating, “I’m going to get Apple to start making their computers and their iPhones on our land, not in China.”
This certainly isn’t that. If anything, it’s a sign that the fund will be focused, at least in part, on outside companies that are already doing some domestic manufacturing. While Apple has done some assembly here in the States (namely the Mac Pro, for which it built a facility in Texas), actually uprooting its existing manufacturing chain would require a much more massive investment than the one it just gave Corning.
Even so, any sort of investment like this will likely and should be regarded as a win for anyone with an interest in returning manufacturing to the US, regardless of political leanings. It’s also certainly worth tracking how this manner of investment will impact the relationship between the companies involved – Gorilla Glass has, after all, had strong relationships with just about every major smartphone manufacturer.
Hopefully this doesn’t adversely impact the relationship Corning has had with competitors like Samsung, HTC and LG. We’ve reached out to all parties to comment on what the investment will mean for those relationships, moving forward. We’ll update when we hear back.