Forum Was Important Reminder Of Manufacturing’s Importance

I left the recent Manufacturer’s Forum hosted by the Placer County Economic Development Board more convinced than ever that manufacturing is critical to the economic future of Placer County, California and the United States.

At the forum, organizers reminded us of several statistics that are important to remember, but easy to forget.

The United States still is the world’s largest manufacturing economy, accounting for 21 percent of the world’s manufactured products. China is second at 15 percent and Japan third with 12 percent.

Manufacturing produces 11.2 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product and directly employs almost 12 million Americans, 9 percent of our workforce. U.S. manufacturing workers are the most productive in the world – twice as productive as workers in the next 10 leading manufacturing economies.

In California, statistics tell a similar story. In 2010, manufacturing accounted for 12 percent of the gross state product and employed more than 1.2 million people.

Manufacturing is a relatively small, but very important sector of Placer County’s economy. In 2009, our county had an estimated 261 manufacturing establishments with more than 7,000 employees and an annual payroll exceeding $547 million.

Manufacturing is important because it is a key source of primary wage-earner jobs for residents at many skill levels.

Statistics highlighted at the forum demonstrate why manufacturing jobs are so important. Statewide, average annual compensation in 2010 was $84,743 in manufacturing and $49,914 for non-farm sectors of the economy as a group.

Adding manufacturing jobs also gives other sectors of the economy a big boost. The rule of thumb is that each new manufacturing job creates 2 ½ other jobs.

The recently completed Economic Development Board Roadmap emphasizes the importance of manufacturing and identifies advanced manufacturing as one of several key targets for local business-attraction efforts.

Held Oct. 13 in Rocklin, the manufacturer’s forum is a centerpiece of the Economic Development Board’s efforts to strengthen the industry. I was pleased to see attendance was up compared with last year’s inaugural forum, and confident that our efforts are gaining a momentum that will pay off in the future.

One of the highlights of this year’s forum was a presentation by President David Baker of RobbJack Corp. of preliminary findings from a first-of-its-kind survey of Placer County’s manufacturers.

Responses ranged from bad to very good when manufacturers were asked about how their companies are doing.

The answers were more consistent when the topic was what they like about doing business in their communities. They tended to focus on such factors as our county’s high quality of life, small-town atmosphere, skilled workforce, access to markets, cooperation with local government agencies, good infrastructure and the availability of land for expansion.

Most responses to a question about what should be done to improve the economy were directed at the state, but some were appeals local officials need to heed: simplify rules and regulations, lower costs of doing business, invest money on infrastructure and facilitate the availability of skilled technical employees.

The findings will help the Economic Development Board refine its action-item priorities. I left the forum convinced that a lot of work remains to be done, but we are on the right track.