Jan 28, 2013
Bill McMeekin
Bill McMeekin
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Manufacturing Revival Resonates in Best-Performing Cities

Technology & Manufacturing: Automated robotic assembly line

There’s more encouraging signs for the rebound in the U.S. manufacturing sector to be found in the new Milken Institute’s 2012 Best-Performing Cities¬† report released last week.

While technology towns or towns with a lot of tech fared the best among the top 25 performers, there was some heartening data from places where a major portion of the economy comes from making things.

The Holland-Grand Haven MI metro surged 118 places from the 2011 to 2012 index, mainly on the strength of its job growth over the last two years. The region is home base for office furniture heavyweights Herman Miller and Haworth, and its manufacturing sector includes a slew of automotive components producers such as Johnson Controls, Magna and Gentex.

Other traditional Midwest manufacturing centers such as Gary, IN and Rockford, IL also made sharp climbs on the 2012 index, as did Greenville and Spartanburg in South Carolina, where major expansions at automaker BMW’s only North American assembly operation were just one a string of recent manufacturing-related investments.

While still millions of jobs shy of its peak in the late-1970s, the U.S. manufacturing sector has added 450,000 jobs since 2010, a turnaround stoked in part by a resurgent auto industry, a rise in U.S. exports and the reshoring of manufacturing jobs from overseas markets in China and elsewhere.

Overall, the U.S. manufacturing sector added 180,000 jobs in 2012, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and now accounts for nearly 12 million of the nation’s jobs.

As the 2012 report’s authors, Ross C. DeVol, Armen Bedroussian and Yu Liu, noted:

“Additional good news came in the form of a recovery in traditional manufacturing. The two most important: autos and heavy capital goods, including mining equipment, excavators, machine tools, and the steel and other metals that are inputs into the process.”

Technology Towns Top the List

While manufacturing intensive cities made some impressive gains, the 2012 Best-Performing Cities list shows that technology hubs are hot.

San Jose, which tops the large cities list, rose 11 spots from the 2011 ranking and underscores the influence that Silicon Valley innovation has on the overall economy. No. 2 Austin has one of the nation’s most vibrant tech scenes, building its information technology-based roots into a go-to spot for social media giants including Facebook.

Raleigh is another innovation powerhouse, where the presence of major research universities has helped fuel growth in its technology sector. Between 2010 and 2011, nearly 6,000 jobs were filled across tech-related industries in the region, including computer and electronic parts production, software development, and professional and technical services, according to the report .

The 2012 Best-Performing Cities:
(2011 rank)

1. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA (51)
2. Austin-Round Rock-San Marcos, TX (4)
3. Raleigh-Cary, NC (14)
4. Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, TX 4 16
5. Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV 5 17
6. Salt Lake City, UT (6)
7. Provo-Orem, UT (9)
8. Cambridge-Newton-Framingham, MA (12)
9. Charleston-North Charleston-Summerville, SC (11)
10. Fort Worth-Arlington, TX (24)

“The resurgence of business investment in equipment, especially information technology and software, has been the unheralded story of this recovery,” the authors noted.

How did your city fare in 2012 and what trends shaped its advance or decline? Is your community able to take advantage of growth on technology or a resurgence in manufacturing, or are your best opportunities in other segments of the economy? Share your thoughts.



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