The Manufacturing Industry
The manufacturing industry in the United States is arguably one of the most important sectors that keeps the country’s economy afloat. The industry has been and remains critically vital to the economy for countless workers across the country—so much so, that it has become a vital part of the American story.
However, the current incarnation of the manufacturing machine has either experienced steady growth in some regions across the country or unexpected shrinkage and protracted decline in others. Perhaps to no surprise, the new century of winners and losers in American manufacturing is rapidly changing the traditional manufacturing map as we have come to expect it.
Grand Rapids, Michigan
Grand Rapids, Michigan has added almost 30% to their workforce since 2010, with an additional 110,800 employees. The city has boasted an impressive 5.4 % growth since just last year.
Regarding diversification of growth, there has been an increase in many companies based in Grand Rapids that specialize not only in the automotive industry but also food, aerospace, and defense. Just last year, unemployment in the metropolitan area fell to 3.3%, which is below the national average.
Although there are specialty firms engaged in various industries, the main driving force in Grand Rapids is still the automotive industry, with its strong sale and distribution of automobile parts.
When people think of Kentucky, they tend to think of bluegrass, mountains, and bourbon. In terms of heavy industry, the strongest association for the state is probably with coal.
However, in recent years, Louisville/Jefferson County, which is situated on the border of Indiana and Kentucky, has seen an industrial employment rate that has exponentially grown 25.6% since 2010, adding 60,500 jobs. Although the size may still seem limited, similar to Grand Rapids, the base for Louisville`s manufacturing growth is greatly diversified.
Some of the area`s biggest heavy-hitter manufacturers include companies like Ford, which exclusively builds pickup trucks and SUVs at two of the plants located there, as well as GE Appliances and Brown Forman Corp, producer of spirits.
It seems as though the true underdog on this list is none other than the greater Detroit area, which has created close to 240,000 jobs in the manufacturing sector in a short span of time. Nearly half of those jobs are in the famed area of the city known as Farmington Hills, which is also known by its famous moniker: Automation Alley. The sprawling suburban area has seen a recent boom in activity in the industrial job market by a staggering 30.6% since 2010.
Detroit-Dearborn has also seen an exponential growth in its manufacturing labor force through an expansion of 27% since 2010. Despite the naysayers’ apocalyptic predictions, when it comes to manufacturing, Detroit is a story of American success.
West Palm Beach, Florida
It’s not just the Rust Belt that has seen the massive growth in the industrial-sector-related jobs and plants, either. The West Palm Beach area, which includes the City of West Palm Beach, Boca Raton, and Delray Beach, has seen an impressive 27.67% in industrial job counts surge since 2011, due to the food and technology industries. Nearby, the Great Orlando metropolitan area has also seen an expansion in recent years, due mainly to its aerospace sector.
This boom has helped neighboring states like Georgia, and the companies that supply support material such as containers and pallets for transportation of goods.
Salt Lake City, Utah
Industrial manufacturing isn’t necessarily the first thing you think of when someone mentions Utah. So it’s perhaps surprising that Salt Lake City`s industries—specializing in aerospace, construction, and metals, as well as oil-and gas-related manufacturing—have all contributed to the city’s booming growth in recent years. Then again, perhaps it’s to be expected—after all, Salt Lake City is the industrial banking center of the United States.
Close by, the Denver Aurora Lakewood industrial manufacturing area in the Rocky Mountain base has witnessed a huge jump in numbers regarding manufacturing jobs over the past few years, as the sector has seen an impressive 12.7% growth since 2010, with a 4% increase in jobs in just 2016 alone.
Albany, New York
Reports of the demise of manufacturing in multiple areas in the U.S. have, it seems, been exaggerated. One place where that’s certainly true is Albany and the Capital District in N.Y., as well as the entire state of New York, where recent years have seen a major surge in activity in the manufacturing industry.
Boasting an impressive 17.6% growth in jobs between 2011-2016, consisting of 25,800 jobs across a range of specialty manufacturing sectors such as gas turbines, computer technology, and medical devices, the area has hopes of competing with some of the red-state manufacture driven economies. That being said, New York state still ranks at one of the lowest rungs when it comes to manufacturing.
The Advancement of Manufacturing
The Bay Area, California
Today, it’s not just the automotive industry that dominates the manufacturing sector, although it does play one of the biggest roles in job and revenue creation. With the colossal outsourcing of manufacturing jobs, particularly to China, even technology-driven manufacturing locations like Silicon Valley have experienced setbacks.
Close to tens of thousands of potential manufacturing jobs were outsourced to workers in factories in China. Even so, innovation centers, including San Jose, have seen 5.9% growth since 2010, thanks to companies like Tesla, which employs close to 15,000 workers.
Los Angeles County
In Southern California, regions like the Los Angeles-Glendale-Long Beach area have also been hit by the affliction that is the downsizing of the manufacturing industry. Although this area still boasts the most industrial jobs in the country, the 3.47% shrink has been considered a massive blow, as rampant downsizing, outsourcing of jobs, and use of robotics have squeezed many workers out of previously held manufacturing jobs.
The Decline of Manufacturing?
There are those cities which, throughout their histories, were top contenders in the industrial manufacturing game before seeing a rapid decline and withering in recent years. Cities like Houston, which is the country’s third biggest manufacturing hub, has witnessed a 5.49% drop since 2011 in manufacturing jobs, to the count of a staggering 220,900 jobs due to a drop in energy prices.
Industrial jobs in oil patch economies have also taken significant hits, including Oklahoma City and Metairie in New Orleans. The country’s largest manufacturing industry giants, including the Chicago Metropolitan Area, saw a 1.85% dip in industrial manufacturing since 2011 following a steady trend of decline for the past several decades.
However, the trend in Chicago does seem to be slowing down through a more concerted effort to preserve manufacturing jobs. Still, the Windy City has seen a serious decline as a manufacturing hub, from over a million jobs in the late 60s to half that in the early 90s—and now, at 281,000 jobs, it’s literally a fraction of its former glory.
People have been proclaiming the death of manufacturing almost as long as there have been manufacturing jobs.
It’s certainly true that today, with the rise of automation and an overall shift in the U.S. economy toward areas like software and financial services, the manufacturing industry faces a different set of challenges than in the past.
However, the numbers show that manufacturing as an industry in the U.S. is still going strong— adapting to new challenges, branching into new areas, and providing new jobs.