The Business of Manufacturing with Rebecca Harris

Jul 9, 2013

Business Contributor Rebecca Harris is the Director of the Chatham Center for Women's Entrepreneurship
Credit Rebecca Harris / Chatham Center for Women's Entrepreneurship

According to business contributor Rebecca Harris, rumors of American manufacturing's demise have been greatly exaggerated.

The manufacturing industry in the United States is growing in a very real way, contributing roughly $1.74 trillion to the US GDP on an annual basis for the past several years and continuing to grow. According to Harris, many large name American companies, including GE and Whirlpool, are actually bringing parts of their manufacturing operations back to the US, thereby adding even more manufacturing jobs and openings. Over the past 3 years, manufacturers have added roughly 500,000 new jobs to their operations.

Harris adds that the manufacturing sector isn't close to slowing down.  There are still vacant jobs to fill. The only problem is finding well-trained laborers to fill it.

One of the greatest examples of this manufacturing growth is in Pittsburgh, a phenomena which Harris attributes to both the region's manufacturing tradition and the technology that is driving the sector's boom.

"Pittsburgh is home to some leading manufacturing and technology corporations," Harris says, adding that "When [she] started to look at the list of companies that are here, it's pretty amazing."

These innovative companies, combined with Pittsburgh's "rich history" of manufacturing work, has combined for highly paid, highly skilled jobs in the sector.

According to the Catalyst Connection, manufacturing in Southwest Pa. employs over 100,000 workers, who receive an average salary of 56,328, or roughly 20% more than the regional average salary.

Some key statistics on manufacturing

Manufacturing is still Pa.'s largest sector, accounting for 14% of the state's GDP and accounting for 60% of the state's new business patents

Many companies have had success with exporting: 60% of companies that reported increased exporting activity declared that their companies were thriving.

Re-shoring, which is essentially the opposite of outsourcing, has become a formidable trend in manufacturing. A recent Forbes survey found that 40% of companies surveyed had gained new manufacturing business that used to be conducted offshore.

Americans are buying American: Industry week reported that 80% of Americans are willing to pay extra for products if they carried the "Made in the USA" label.