In Driver’s seat

Dorel Juvenile USA announced plans to create 60 new jobs after landing a 1.4 million car-seat supplier deal with retail giant Walmart, then hinted that even more expansion will be coming to Columbus.

Although the car-seat deal with Walmart is limited, Dorel President and CEO Paul Powers said the new jobs will be permanent as the company explores even more business opportunities.

A hint of that came when Powers was asked Tuesday about Dorel’s 2014 purchase of the juvenile operations of the Lerado Group, which provided the company with its first manufacturing facilities in China and Taiwan.

“Our China facility makes primarily strollers,” Powers said. “But stay tuned because we’ve got some other plans for Columbus in that regard.”

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Dorel Juvenile and Walmart officials gathered at the company’s manufacturing site on the east side of Columbus to make the announcement about moving the production of 1.4 million car seats from a Chinese competitor to the Columbus facility.

The 60 new jobs being added to the 720 already in Columbus will be mainly in manufacturing and distribution positions, Powers said.

Dorel ranks eighth among all employers in Columbus and is the sixth largest among local manufacturers, with Cummins Inc. ranking first with about 7,500 local workers.

Dorel’s average hourly rate for production operators is $15 per hour, Dorel marketing director Jennie Freedman said.

“We have already started some hiring, but it will be spread over the next nine months as product lines are expanded to meet customer launches,” Freedman said.

The expanded volume will start at the end of this year and will grow through 2018, she said.

Dorel Juvenile Group, a leading manufacturer of children’s car seats and strollers, will add two additional assembly lines at the Columbus facility to produce the products for Walmart, which include car seat, stroller and walker categories, Freedman said.

The lines will include:

Grow and Go Convertible Car Seats

Easy Elite Car Seats

Store n’ Go Backed Boosters

Rise No Back Boosters

Disney Walkers

In addition, new products are set for release next year, Freedman said.

While the current Walmart order is limited to 1.4 million seats, “when we do a deal like this with Walmart, it becomes permanent,” Powers said.

That was also the expectation expressed Tuesday by Walmart Chief Merchandising Officer Steve Bratspies.

“Obviously, a move like this requires a lot of capital investment,” Bratspies said. “So when we step into relationships with buyers like Dorel, we’re looking for the long term.”

Walmart tied the deal with Dorel to a 10-year initiative by the company to buy an additional $250 billion in products that support American jobs.

Walmart intends to continue using its scale and leverage to create jobs, Bratspies said.

“There’s no reason that, here in Columbus, we can’t continue to do a lot more,” he said.

Besides Walmart, other major retail partners for Dorel include Amazon, Target, Babies R Us, Buy Buy Baby and Nordstrom, Freedman said.

According to market research from the London-based Technavio Company, the global baby car seat market is expected to exceed $2 billion by 2020, growing at a rate of almost 5 percent annually.

Currently, Dorel manufactures more than 3 million car seats per year that range from infant to convertible, Freedman said. The company produces a range of car seats priced from $45 to $500 under brands that include Cosco, Safety 1st and Maxi-Cosi, she said.

Specific car-seat models manufactured in Columbus include award-winning and high safety rating seats including the Grow n’ Go Convertible Car Seat and the Scenera Next.

The Scenera, manufactured exclusively for Walmart, played an important role in further strengthening the 40-year relationship between Walmart and Dorel.

In 2014, Dorel exceded expectations of many when it quickly ramped up production to make 3,000 Scenera Next car seats a day, in order to meet a requirement to have 600,000 of the models shipped to Walmart by Christmas Day of that year.

10-year commitment

Bratspies described Tuesday’s announcement as a small part of a 10-year commitment to buy an additional $250 billion in products supporting American jobs.

That commitment began in January 2013 and includes working with suppliers to increase U.S.-manufactured products in its stores, said Scott Markley, a Walmart spokesman.

But those billions of dollars will be spread all across the United States in many different geographical areas, Bratspies said.

One million new U.S. jobs will be created through Walmart’s initiative, according to data from the Boston Consulting Group quoted Tuesday by Bratspies. A company press release broke that down into direct manufacturing job growth of about 250,000 _ and indirect job growth of about 750,000 in the support and service sectors.

For Walmart, it is inefficient to ship the oddly-shaped child car seats in oversize boxes overseas, Markley said.

But Bratspies says a combination of changes in today’s economy are working together to add manufacturing jobs in the United States.

“Transportation costs internationally are going up, wage rates are rising internationally, and we’re getting to be a lot more manufacturing-friendly in the U.S. than we’ve been in the past,” Bratspies said.

Retailers and manufacturers still need to create a relationship that shares a common vision in order to create opportunities, he said.

“What’s great about Dorel is that they innovate and bring new things to the market,” Bratspies said. “Walmart needs new products. They are the lifeblood of every retailer.”

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While headquartered in Foxborough, Massachusetts, Dorel Juvenile USA has its main U.S. manufacturing facility, as well a design and development center and a technical center for child safety, located in Columbus.

Dorel Juvenile Group, located near the intersection of State Street and Gladstone Avenue, is considered the world’s largest car-seat manufacturer, producing recognizable brands including Cosco, Safety 1st, Quinny, Cosco and Maxi-Cosi.

The company is a division of Dorel Industries, established in 1961 in Montreal, Quebec. Besides juvenile products, Dorel Industries also products recreational and leisure products marketed under the Cannondale, Schwinn, GT, Mongoose, IronHorse and SUGOI names. Dorel’s Home Furnishings markets a wide assortment of furniture products, both domestically produced and imported.

Dorel Industries Inc. has annual sales of $2.6 billion and employs about 10,000 people in facilities in 25 countries worldwide.

The company has a commitment on sustainability initiatives that are designed to minimize environmental impact, company officials said. This includes energy-management systems to reduce electric, natural gas and water usage at the zero-landfill manufacturing facility, recycling packaging materials and more than 99 percent of its plastic manufacturing waste. The company also has a recycling program to keep post-consumer car seats out of landfills, repurposing materials into other products.