Top Communities for Advanced Manufacturing Workforce Growth

by Josh Bays, on Jun 26, 2017 4:29:33 PM

Throughout the United States, manufacturing is becoming more advanced across a variety of sectors.  Repetitive processes are being automated when possible, and this is increasing demand for higher skilled production talent. Site Selection Group, a global location advisory firm, partners with clients to quantify readily and potentially available labor for advanced manufacturing through benchmarking analyses.

The total number of production employees rose slightly after the recession, but has not recovered to pre-2009 numbers. At the same time, the unemployment rate continues to stay low in the manufacturing industry. These conditions are squeezing communities’ labor availability across the United States, which is causing concern particularly among large and fast-growing employers.

Production Employment Trends


Because advanced manufacturing employers try to meet or beat expected efficiency metrics with fewer people, the shift from unskilled to skilled production labor can be a challenge. Many employers report designing internal training programs to help narrow the skills gap between general labor and higher skilled production occupations in their specific operation. Additionally, as seen in the chart below, overall completions related to maintenance and engineering in the United States have been increasing. 

Engineering and Maintenance Completions


High growth communities for skilled production are diverse, but mainly larger metro areas
While some operations and sectors have yet to modernize their equipment and processes, those with more resources have invested in advanced manufacturing technologies and the talent required to run the machinery. Consequently, demand is on the rise for higher skilled production occupations – those that require knowledge of machinery and computers.

The table below shows the top 20 communities as measured by 5-year projected growth for key production occupations. Geographically, the top 20 are diverse spanning from the Southeast to the Rust Belt and the West Coast. Many of these communities are higher in overall population.

Top 20 Metro Areas by Projected Growth in Advanced Manufacturing Production Occupations

Metro Area 5-Year Projected Growth 2016 Total Number of Workers
Austin-Round Rock, TX 14.52% 997
Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia, NC-SC 14.33% 1,637
Charleston-North Charleston, SC 14.32% 1,374
Salt Lake City, UT 14.04% 857
Columbus, IN 13.07% 1,324
Oklahoma City, OK 12.88% 795
San Diego-Carlsbad, CA 12.82% 1,531
San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA 12.09% 1,061
Elkhart-Goshen, IN 12.02% 1,309
Greenville-Anderson-Mauldin, SC 12.02% 1,589
Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA 11.25% 1,895
Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, GA 11.05% 1,519
Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX 10.50% 5,412
Louisville/Jefferson County, KY-IN 9.66% 1,572
Jackson, MI 9.47% 906
Cincinnati, OH-KY-IN 9.32% 2,692
Greensboro-High Point, NC 9.30% 795
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA 9.11% 1,249
Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA 9.08% 2,959
Columbus, OH 9.00% 1,268

Source: EMSI, MSAs with at least 750 workers in the production cluster

Texas leads among high-growth communities for maintenance
It’s not only production labor that is changing. With added machinery to automate processes, more maintenance workers are required to keep the operation running smoothly. In Site Selection Group’s experience, maintenance occupations are often in high demand. Like production occupations, the top 20 communities for maintenance occupation growth are also diverse. Texas cities appear five times on the list, which is likely related to the maintenance-heavy oil and gas industry.

Top 20 Metro Areas by Projected Growth in Advanced Manufacturing Maintenance Occupations

Metro Area 5-Year Projected Growth 2016 Total Number of Workers
Midland, TX 1,118 29.01%
Beaumont-Port Arthur, TX 1,283 22.17%
Ogden-Clearfield, UT 957 20.52%
Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL 1,507 20.44%
Mobile, AL 857 20.05%
Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, CO 2,835 18.23%
Charleston-North Charleston, SC 760 18.00%
Raleigh, NC 914 17.96%
Odessa, TX 917 17.95%
Austin-Round Rock, TX 1,757 17.80%
San Antonio-New Braunfels, TX 2,811 17.63%
Spokane-Spokane Valley, WA 758 16.87%
Stockton-Lodi, CA 882 16.76%
Visalia-Porterville, CA 781 16.33%
Fort Wayne, IN 847 16.03%
Sacramento--Roseville--Arden-Arcade, CA 1,257 15.15%
Knoxville, TN 1,407 14.68%
Salt Lake City, UT 1,860 14.65%
San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA 3,223 14.35%
Nashville-Davidson--Murfreesboro--Franklin, TN 2,448 14.27%

Source: EMSI, MSAs with at least 750 workers in the maintenance cluster

West Coast communities not among high-growth communities for engineering
Engineers are increasing in demand as well. Designing equipment and processes to streamline efficiency go hand-in-hand with advanced manufacturing. Although not always located at every facility within an organization, key sites and large headcount sites generally require a larger number of engineering and related workers. The fastest-growing communities with at least 750 workers in mechanical, industrial and electrical engineering or technician roles are listed below. California, Oregon and Washington are not in the top 20, indicating more engineering growth slightly east to Nevada and then throughout the United States. 

Top 20 MSAs by Projected Growth in Advanced Manufacturing Engineering Occupations

Metro Area 5-Year Projected Growth 2016 Total Number of Workers
Savannah, GA 18.03% 1,098
Provo-Orem, UT 17.86% 1,342
Des Moines-West Des Moines, IA 16.50% 982
Charleston-North Charleston, SC 15.86% 2,604
Raleigh, NC 15.64% 4,561
Rocky Mount, NC 14.75% 963
Beaumont-Port Arthur, TX 13.37% 1,103
Tullahoma-Manchester, TN 12.68% 753
Montgomery, AL 12.36% 882
Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, CO 12.17% 9,365
Augusta-Richmond County, GA-SC 11.93% 2,912
Columbia, SC 11.53% 2,236
Kansas City, MO-KS 11.44% 7,374
Ogden-Clearfield, UT 11.43% 2,640
Reno, NV 11.24% 755
California-Lexington Park, MD 11.00% 1,241
Albany-Schenectady-Troy, NY 10.83% 4,316
Nashville-Davidson--Murfreesboro--Franklin, TN 10.51% 5,033
Duluth, MN-WI 10.51% 824
Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, NV 10.31% 1,954

Source: EMSI, MSAs with at least 750 workers in the engineering cluster

Projected growth for labor isn’t enough to assess a community
Based on these micro analyses, projected growth for labor required for advanced manufacturing is not concentrated in one particular region throughout the United States. For projects with more specific occupational needs, however, it’s possible that one region may stand out more than the rest. Of course, simply calculating the projected growth for occupational clusters isn’t enough to determine candidate communities for the most optimal site.

The supply of workers in occupation clusters is only one of many metrics that Site Selection Group considers for benchmarking labor availability across geographies. Other metrics include labor demand, and population demographics, among others. Additionally, labor availability is only one of many categories that go into GeoCision® and other analyses the team provides to clients after collaborative project discussions. While labor availability is often a top priority for selecting optimal sites for clients, ultimately Site Selection Group’s recommendations are based on multiple analyses and best practices from years of experience.


Topics:Location Advisory



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