Best States for Manufacturing in 2023

by Ceci Grover, on Aug 21, 2023 9:00:00 AM

Site Selection Group, a full-service location advisory, economic incentives and real estate services firm, helps manufacturing companies find the optimal location by employing an objective top-down approach to site selection. This top-down selection process requires the application of innovative analyses and filters until the most competitive locations are identified.

One of the most critical proprietary tools used by Site Selection Group is GeoCision®, a weighted model that can score and rank candidate geographies based on pertinent site selection variables.

Ranking states by competitiveness for manufacturing investment

Each year, Site Selection Group utilizes GeoCision® to score and rank states based on their competitiveness for corporate investment (Best States for Manufacturing). We begin by scoring and ranking every metropolitan and micropolitan area (MSA) in the lower 48 states based on key variables of interest for a manufacturing project. Then, we average the scores of every MSA within each state to produce an overall state score.

Although criteria are unique to a specific project’s needs, there are standard site selection factors that typically drive most manufacturing location decisions. A company’s ability to hire and retain a qualified workforce, as well as its ability to receive and ship goods in a cost-effective and timely manner, are among the most influential factors that drive final site selection decisions. However, business environment, regulatory climate, utilities, infrastructure, real estate and economic incentives also play an important role in the process. While no singular location will score at the top in every category, the optimal location is one with a good balance of these characteristics and no critical deficiencies.

Variables and weightings used in Site Selection Group’s Best States for Manufacturing

In our 2023 rankings, Site Selection Group scored states based on the following categories and weightings.

Key Variables
Workforce & Market Alignment 50%
  • Labor Scalability (Population, Workforce, Growth, Unemployment)
  • Target Demographics (Age, Income, Education, Socio-Economic Status aligned with Manufacturing)
  • Target Occupational Presence (Presence of Target Occupational Clusters, focusing on Production, Logistics, Maintenance and Engineering Requirements)
  • Target Occupational Demand (Competition and Hiring Pressure)
  • Organized Labor Climate
 Operating Costs 25%
  • Wage/Salary Levels for Target Occupational Requirements
  • Broader Coast of Living and Income Metrics
  • Tax Climate
  • Utility Costs
  • Real Estate Costs
Geographic Positioning 25%
  • General Population/Consumer Access (This factor can be very client-specific)
  • Modal Access (Air, Port, Rail, Intermodal)


2023 Best States for Manufacturing

The table and interactive map below show the results of the 2023 rankings. The top five states in Site Selection Group’s Best States for Manufacturing in 2023 are South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Utah. This list closely resembles the Best States for Manufacturing in 2022, with the usual states (e.g. SC, NC and TN) scoring at the top again. Their success is due in large part to favorable demographics and migration patterns, a strong manufacturing presence, low cost of doing business, access to consumer bases and/or proximity to major ports.


While state-level summaries can be helpful, ultimately market conditions vary significantly within each state. 

North Carolina and South Carolina are prime examples of states with a diversity of markets that may align with some requirements and not with others. For example, on the North Carolina side, while they are all competitive locations, Raleigh-Durham, Greensboro-Winston-Salem and greater Charlotte all have different strengths and challenges.  

On the South Carolina side, a market like Charleston has the advantage of being a major port city, but Greenville-Spartanburg has a more established manufacturing base. As a result, it is critical to evaluate locations at a market level when making site selection decisions. Site Selection Group works with clients to develop a wholistic market-level analysis unique to each project’s requirements and can not only target states of potential interests, but specific markets, sites and buildings within those favorable locations.  




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