When Darius Mir opened his company Made in America (MIA) Seating in Union City, Tenn. two years ago, he pledged to create 500 jobs for Tennessee’s 8th Congressional district in five years. Despite earning a projected $50 million in group sales this year alone, the U.S. immigration system may actually keep him from fulfilling that promise. “We are still in the early stages of implementing that plan and are enjoying the opportunity to pull from a very talented workforce in Tennessee,” says Mir, who estimates the plant currently has 60 employees, all of whom are American. Yet Mir has been unable to find qualified Americans to fill certain positions, such as experienced industrial design engineers, and tool and die designers and makers. “We’re running behind on our hiring schedule for MIA simply because we haven’t been able to find the skill set and knowledge that’s needed in certain areas,” he explains. Since securing recent deals with three mega retailers including Walmart and Sam’s Club, Mir estimates he needs to increase his current workforce to roughly 200 people by the end of next year in order to meet upcoming production demands and secure the $100 million in group sales the company is projected to earn during that time. “We hope that we will be reaching our targets,” says Mir, “but an exodus of jobs over the past 30 years has created a void in many of the skill sets that we’re looking for.”
MIA is the third company Mir and his family have founded since immigrating to the United States from Iran in 1980. They opened MIA’s sister company, 9 to 5 Seating, located in Hawthorne, California, in 1983. Later, they expanded to a second location in China where the majority of the company’s manufacturing was being done. Then, about four years ago, the family decided any future growth wasn’t going to happen abroad. “As immigrants living in the Unites States, we felt an obligation to bring back the job opportunities to the U.S.,” explains Mir.
After an exhaustive search, they settled on Union City, Tenn., for the location of their new operation. “We received a very warm welcome and generous incentives from the state and local community,” recalls Mir. “The location also afforded us the ability to reach 80 percent of our market within 500-600 miles, which enables us to deliver our product to a substantial market within one or two days. And with Union City being a very rural environment that had lost some major manufacturers in the area to relocation, we also knew we would have a unique opportunity to benefit from the available talented workforce.”
We are the best country on earth because we’ve managed to utilize the different perspectives, cultures, and passion that immigrants bring with them when they migrate from one place to another.
MIA is an example of economic success that wouldn’t be possible had Mir started the company in his home country of Iran. “We are lucky to be here in the U.S and benefit from the many opportunities that America has to offer, as well as having immediate access to the largest market in the World,” says Mir, predicting that he would have had to export goods to achieve the same number of sales, were they based elsewhere. “Other advantages include a stable government, sound business infrastructure, available land, affordable energy costs, and advanced technology, all of which are big pluses for manufacturing here since these advantages are not readily available in other parts of the world. Those things are all key to the health of our business if we want to reverse the 30-year trend of jobs moving out of the U.S., and we are working hard to set an example for other companies to look at us, a closely-held family-owned business, and say ‘If they can do it, why can’t we?’”
Ultimately, says Mir, the United States is a nation of immigrants, and we need reform that not only celebrates that history but leverages it to our advantage. “We are the best country on earth because we’ve managed to utilize the different perspectives, cultures, and passion that immigrants bring with them when they migrate from one place to another,” he says. “And we need to keep that momentum going by inviting qualified folks to come and stay here legally so that they can continue to help build this country so that we can compete with companies all over the world.”