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Taking the Pulse of US Manufacturing

Stephen Gray reflects on his day touring the Siemens and Caterpillar plants in North Carolina with New York Times writer, Joe Nocera.

Manufacturing Plant Floor Conversation between 2 Men

6 Takeaways from a recent NY Times Op-Ed on the state of US Manufacturing


I recently spent a day with New York Times writer, Joe Nocera, touring the Siemens and Caterpillar plants in North Carolina. In his latest op-ed, Joe reflected on our trip with thoughts on the US manufacturing and economic recovery.  After reading Joe’s piece in the New York Times yesterday, I wrote down a few additional thoughts on the topic.

1)  Factory jobs are essential, but it’s important to remember each of these projects creates thousands of construction jobs and a greater “economic chain reaction”.  In the 22 projects we have under construction, around 4,600 construction jobs have been created.  These and other “induced” jobs lead to personal and business spending by the construction workers, suppliers, etc. and cause a cascading effect in the local economy.

2)  Nearly all of the jobs created by these two projects are in important economic sectors: construction and manufacturing.  These sectors provide well paying positions that put people back to work in their local communities. There are plenty of reasons to be upbeat about the capabilities, work ethic, skills and desires of the American worker.  

3)  Joe pointed out that both Caterpillar Inc. and Siemens chose to locate in the US over other countries with low labor costs.  International and Domestic companies can still claim significant competitive advantages by locating their manufacturing facilities in the US, including some large expansions in the southeast region.

4)  Apart from construction, Gray also provided the designs for these buildings. As a key part of any design-build project, architects and engineers are tasked with creating these massive structures. These are professionally degreed positions with highly technical education and experience. Developments in manufacturing leverage this important knowledge-base in the US workforce.

5) The energy that both Charlotte and Winston-Salem put into educating their work force shows how a “full court press” sent a very clear signal to manufacturers that they understood their skilled labor requirements and were ready to deliver.  Communities that come together to advance their capabilities in ways such as these are able to successfully take advantage of job-creating opportunities.

6)  In his closing, Joe mentioned that “the road back to true manufacturing prosperity is going to be a long one indeed”.  Yes, it is a long road, but we are moving down it step by step. Although we don’t know how long before we can rely on construction and manufacturing to meaningfully impact the broader US jobs situation, there are some clear signs that things are headed in the right direction.

    September 28, 2011

    Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a contributing author and not necessarily Gray.

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