Wal-Mart Stores Inc. promised "everything is a yes" at the opening session of the company's "Open Call" with suppliers of U.S.-made products Tuesday.
The U.S. Manufacturing Summit, held at the company's home office in Bentonville, is part of the retailer's 2013 initiative to spend $250 billion on American-produced goods for its stores, Sam's Clubs and Walmart.com. Wal-Mart executives said 800 meetings with suppliers were scheduled at this event, portions of which were broadcast live online.
Cindi Marsiglio, vice president of U.S. Manufacturing, said about one-third of the pitches would be from businesses that are owned by women or minorities.
Chief Merchandising Officer Steve Bratspies made the announcement that every product — with a few exceptions — pitched during Tuesday's meetings would be automatically approved for sale on Walmart.com. Products that couldn't be shipped because they contain hazardous materials would be excluded.
"U.S. manufacturing creates jobs," Bratspies said. "U.S. manufacturing proves that America is and always will be the epicenter of innovation. Innovation is the lifeblood of Wal-Mart."
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson spoke at the summit's opening session and highlighted several economic development accomplishments the state has achieved. He said Arkansas' strong manufacturing sector made it an attractive destination for businesses.
"I'm making my pitch, too," Hutchinson said. "This pitch is for Arkansas. Arkansas is a great place to do business."
Hutchinson said manufacturing was the "lifeblood" of Arkansas, and the state ranked sixth nationally in manufacturing workforce by percentage.
"As governor, I can't think of anything more important that expanding jobs and increasing opportunities and wage rates for the people of this state," he said.
Michelle Gloeckler oversees the company's U.S. manufacturing initiative and said Wal-Mart's commitment was on schedule. Gloeckler said one product pitched at the first Open Call three years ago is now sold in more than 2,600 stores nationwide.
"Our role is to help accelerate your progress when it comes to investing in and creating American jobs and making great products here in the U.S.," said Gloeckler, executive vice president of the consumables and health and wellness divisions and the U.S. manufacturing lead for Walmart U.S. "The case for U.S. manufacturing is as strong if not stronger than it was when we set out on this journey."
Walmart U.S. CEO Greg Foran said the initiative has three key components: pleasing customers, 85 percent of whom said where the product was produced was the second-most important buying factor after price; empowering communities who see job creation or expansion; and the ability to export those goods to foreign markets.
"No other retailer has our size and scale," Foran said.