Rural center releases “Our Manufacturing Future” study

The N.C. Rural Economic Development Center released on Feb. 8 the results of an expansive, yearlong study of the state of manufacturing in North Carolina.

The report cites growing reasons for optimism about the future of manufacturing — in 2011, for example, the sector experienced the first net increase in jobs in 16 years — and recommends establishment of the N.C. Manufacturing Council to capitalize on this momentum. A second report, with further recommendations, is to be released in March.

Equally important, the report provides policy makers and economic developers at the state, regional and local levels with a wealth of new information to guide their work. Entitled “Our Manufacturing Future: Toward a More Prosperous Rural North Carolina,” it:

  • Details the 25 manufacturing clusters that employ the most people in North Carolina. These clusters are product-related industries with strong buying and selling relationships, thus representing a broader impact than individual industries.
  • Analyzes the relative strengths of these clusters for the state, for the 85 counties that make up rural North Carolina and for each of the seven economic development sectors.
  • Further explores the complex relationships within six rural manufacturing clusters.
  • Highlights factors contributing to the successes of the most competitive businesses and cites common challenges among rural manufacturers.
  • Maps the locations across the state of jobs in each of the 25 clusters.

Although manufacturing has suffered significant job losses over the past two decades, it remains the top contributor to North Carolina’s gross domestic product and 84 percent of state exports.

It is especially important in rural parts of the state, where it accounts for 14 percent of total employment and $9.3 billion in annual wages. Furthermore, at $42,297, the average rural manufacturing wage is nearly a third higher than the average for other private, non-manufacturing jobs. Read more.