SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Opinion

October 4, 2012

Column: Manufacturing matters

Tomorrow is the first national Manufacturing Day, reminding us that the United States still leads the world in production of manufactured goods, and that the manufacturing sector is at the core of our economy.

Manufacturing activity is coming back from the recession, and may also be coming back from overseas. The 2012 U.S. Re-shoring Survey by the MIT Forum for Supply Chain Innovation finds that manufacturers are reconsidering their supply chain strategies due to higher labor costs in developing countries, energy costs and political stability issues, as well as time-to-market concerns. Re-shoring — bringing manufacturing back to the U.S. — is under consideration by a significant number of firms, and some, including auto parts and electrical equipment manufacturers, have moved operations back. The survey finds that federal and state policies, including corporate tax rates, have a major impact on decisions to move or stay.

Here in Massachusetts, “manufacturing is alive and well, and has a healthy future,” according to a recent report, “Staying Power II: A Report Card on Manufacturing in Massachusetts,” by professor Barry Bluestone and his team at Northeastern University.

Some of its key findings about Massachusetts manufacturing today:

Manufacturing employment has stabilized after a sharp decline in the recession

Manufacturing is the state’s six-largest employment sector — and the second-largest (after health care) in terms of payroll

Manufacturing’s share of gross state product has risen for the past two years, to 12.2 percent

The number of manufacturing firms actually increased in 2011, for the first time in decades

Manufacturing is more technologically intense than ever; in 1970 employment in low-tech sectors was twice that in high-tech, in 2006 they were equal, and by 2010 high-tech was 27 percent larger

Most Massachusetts manufacturing companies are small, and most are family-owned

The manufacturing workforce is more diverse than the overall state workforce

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