"Made in the USA" again

(CBS News) GLEN BURNIE, Md. - Despite the sequester, the stock market is soaring and at a new record high. The Dow closed at 14,397 Friday -- up more than 300 points for the week. That's about 2.2 percent.

Strong job growth in February helped boost stocks. And some of those jobs came from companies making products in America again.

Mei Xu started making candles 18 years ago in the basement of her Maryland home, molding them in soup cans.

Today, she runs the Chesapeake Bay Candle company, which brings in nearly $90 million a year.

As her business boomed, she moved manufacturing operations to China, to take advantage of the low cost of labor.

But as Chinese labor costs rose, she was forced to lay off most of her workers.

Four years ago, at one particular factory in Huangzhou, China was filled with assembly lines. Back then there were 2,000 workers here. Now it's down to 300.

"The labor cost also over the last two decades in China has built up to a level already where in the last five years, for example, it's been up by 30 percent every year," said Mei Xu.

Add rising fuel costs for transporting candles halfway around the world, and Mei Xu said the advantage of doing business in China disappeared.

Now she's relocated jobs from China back to the U.S, but not as many. A single worker in her Maryland factory does the work of ten in China.

"That is the only reason we can actually bring jobs here," said Mei Xu. "It is highly automated."

In comparing the productivity between Chinese and American workers, Mei Xu said: "My Chinese staff are more willing to do whatever it takes, but the American workers are more thoughtful. They will give me comments they will tell me what is working and what's not."

And she said there's another big advantage to coming home--the pride factor in having her candles that now say "Made in the USA." "And we are shipping those to China," she said. "That is the most profound happiness I find."

Her Maryland factory now has about 60 employees and she plans to add 15-20 more in the coming months to satisfy growing demand for her "Made in America" candles all around the world.

  • Chip Reid

    Chip Reid is CBS News' national correspondent.

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