Workforce Development with UNICOR

November 3, 2016

This month, SelectUSA is pleased to feature a new multi-part guest blog focusing on workforce opportunities. These posts are authored by members of the Federal Interagency Investment Working Group (IIWG), which is responsible for coordinating activities across federal agencies that promote investment. 

This post contains external links. Please review our external linking policy


Companies looking to establish, reshore, or expand manufacturing operations in the United States can benefit from a unique federal partner that exemplifies the business principle of doing well by doing good.  This partner – which offers modern facilities as well access to a reliable U.S. workforce with a broad spectrum of manufacturing and technical expertise – is UNICOR, a government corporation under the U.S. Department of Justice.

Let’s begin with the idea of doing good.

Since 1934, UNICOR has been a crucial correctional program, with a mission to provide federal inmates valuable “real world” job and life skills training to enhance their prospects for employment and reentry success upon their release from prison. President Obama has emphasized the Administration’s goals of helping inmates prepare for reentry, stating: “Our prisons should be a place where we can train people for skills that can help them find a job…” UNICOR provides job skills to approximately 17,500 inmate workers annually. Upon release, program participants are 24 percent less likely to recidivate and 14 percent more likely to find and maintain sustainable employment, than those who did not participate. These numbers mean more productive, law-abiding citizens, more intact families, and safer communities.

UNICOR is good for local economies as well. On average, 72 percent of UNICOR’s revenues return to the economy from the procurement of ancillary equipment, supplies, and services within the region of factory production. Companies that first manufacture with UNICOR may even grow to the point of building their own factories. Additionally, the UNICOR workforce can add to the skilled labor force of the community upon release from prison.

Now on to doing well.

UNICOR serves as a viable business incubator or manufacturing extension for business operations. When companies lack capital to build new or additional factories in the United States or face other constraints, UNICOR can provide immediate access to factory and warehouse space nationwide. UNICOR also offers a flexible labor force to help meet companies’ surge production needs. Moving production to the United States – the world’s largest market – can help companies reduce transportation costs, increase sales, as well as lower production costs, most notably by avoiding the significant outlays of purchasing equipment and leasing factory space.

UNICOR also possesses repatriation (reshoring) authority to produce or assemble products for a company that certifies they are currently produced, or would otherwise be produced, outside the United States. UNICOR can also produce non-repatriated products for the private sector when the work performed will not displace sector jobs, inmates are paid the local prevailing wage, and other conditions are met. UNICOR also provides commercial market services (e.g., call centers) to the private sector when doing so does not displace local workers.

Through the Federal Interagency Investment Working Group, SelectUSA and UNICOR have partnered to assist and encourage companies to create and retain U.S. jobs both through UNICOR factories and the private sector at large. By working with UNICOR, companies can obtain financial and manufacturing benefits, help inmates obtain technical skills, and turn distressed areas into vibrant hubs of economic activity. To discuss opportunities with UNICOR, visit www.unicor.gov or email Audreylambert@usdoj.gov.

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