#542 – The Cities Leading a U.S. Manufacturing RevivalPosted on
This week we are sharing the first part of a great report from Joel Kotkin and Michael Shires that looks at which cities are leading in regaining manufacturing jobs lost during the Great Recession. The report includes a ranking of the best places for manufacturing jobs, which you can find here.
Manufacturing may no longer drive the U.S. economy, but industrial growth remains a powerful force in many regions of the country. Industrial employment has surged over the past five years, with the sector adding some 855,000 new jobs, a 7.5% expansion.
Several factors are driving this trend, including rising wages in China, the energy boom and a growing need to respond more quickly to local customer demand and the changing marketplace.
The Rust Belt Is Back
No part of America suffered more from the de-industrialization of the past 40 years than the Great Lakes states. Yet as manufacturing has come back, particularly the auto industry, many of the region’s economies have begun to resurge. Despite all the fashionable chatter over the question of whether we’ve reached “peak car” the auto industry has enjoyed six straight years of increased sales, driven by low interest rates, the need to replace older cars and rising consumer confidence.
The epicenter of this trend is exactly where the industrial decline hit hardest: Michigan, which sweeps the top three places on our list of the big cities generating the most new manufacturing jobs. The state has now recovered about 40% of the manufacturing jobs it lost during the recession. The Detroit-Dearborn-Livonia metropolitan area ranks No. 1 among the country’s 70 largest metropolitan areas for manufacturing employment growth over the time period for our study. Since 2009 the Detroit area has seen a remarkable 31.3% rebound to 89,300 industrial jobs, including a 9.8% expansion last year. This growth has helped begin to reverse a long-standing decline in employment overall—still down 12.3% since 2003—with overall employment up 5.9% since 2009.
Detroit’s recovery is not just a matter of inertia, but reflects a unique combination of circumstances. The area is home not only to many skilled workers, but boasts the second largest concentration of engineers among the country’s 85 largest metro areas, behind only Silicon Valley.
In second place is Warren-Troy-Farmington, in the Detroit suburbs, where manufacturing employment is up 38.8% since 2009. In third place is Grand Rapids-Wyoming, a longtime furniture-making hub where an uncommonly high share of jobs is in manufacturing, one in five; the metro area has seen industrial employment rebound 27.9% since 2009.
Another Midwest hotspot has been Toledo, Ohio, only 60 miles from Detroit, which ranks first among the mid-sized cities we evaluated, with a 17.4% jump in industrial employment since 2009.
The other big cluster of industrial hotspots is in the Southeast. Manufacturing has been heading to the region for several decades, recently primed by major investments from German and Japanese companies, among others. A prime example is Nashville-Davidson-Murfreesboro, Tenn., where manufacturing employment has jumped 23.9% since 2009. Japan’s Nissan and Bridgestone have establishing manufacturing plants in Central Tennessee, which has also created opportunities for small domestic parts companies in the region. Nissan also relocated its U.S. headquarters to the area in 2006 from Southern California. And domestic auto makers are have become major players in the Southeast—Ford employs some 14,000 in the Louisville, Ky., area.
Other areas that have become primary places for new industrial investment include such Deep South locations as Savannah, Ga., Columbia, S.C., a major center for German car companies, and Charleston, S.C., which has benefited from the expansion of Boeing and aerospace suppliers there. These areas missed much of the industrial revolution a century ago but are playing an impressive game of catch-up. Each has seen their industrial workforces grow over 20% since 2009.
Joel Kotkin is executive editor of NewGeography.com. Michael Shires, Ph.D. is a professor at Pepperdine University School of Public Policy.