I figured I'd wrap up my digging around in textile recycling by searching on textiles in google news and stumbled across it.
Here are some things that are worth pointing out.
(1) http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes516031.htm Sewing machine operators in the US appear to be kinda scarce -- and not very well paid. No wonder AirTex is having trouble finding them. I don't think you're going to see this wage rate -- especially not in Minneapolis, which has a notoriously high cost of living -- in conjunction with making people pay for their own training. _Especially_ not if the going rate in _China_ is $11/hour.
(2) "In the various waves of American textile production, dating to the 1800s, the problem of an available and willing workforce solved itself.
Little capital was required — the boss just needed sewing equipment and people willing to work. That made it an attractive business for newly arrived immigrants."
Kinda breathtaking, given how hard labor worked to put a stop to management just importing entire villages full of people to break strikes. People _died_ over this sort of thing. Having it erased from our history makes me feel ill.
ETA: Oh, yeah, and then there was that whole move the factory South phase as well, and then there was the whole Don't Let the Black People Leave phase . . . Roland points out that while it seems like little capital from our perspective, at the time it wasn't so little at all.
Manufacturing is up against what the health care industry is up against. There are plenty of people eager to do the work that needs to be done. But not at the going rate -- and not when the education costs as much as it does, for an uncertain future return (well, it's certainly low, and might be zero).
We have apparently _finally_ hit a point where getting people from Somewhere Else to do the work (either by exporting the work or importing the people) is breaking down. From here, labor actually has a chance to improve its lot. Or possibly robots. Maybe both.