Where Manufacturing Is Booming: 5 Cities Leading the Industry

Although the United States has shed about 2.5 million manufacturing jobs in the last decade, some industry experts suggest that a rebirth is underway. For example, since 2010, the country has added more than 330,000 industrial jobs, and production is increasing at the fastest rate since the nineties. Additionally, in many metropolitan areas, the manufacturing industry is almost single-handedly responsible for burgeoning employment opportunities and significant economic growth. While the specific industry (e.g., energy, automotive, etc.) driving manufacturing employment and growth varies considerably by geography, what the following five cities have in common is nation-leading manufacturing sectors.

1) Houston, Texas

Houston, TX skyline at night

Image via Flickr by Katie Haugland

Thanks to the exploding energy industry, Houston's chemical, metal fabrication, and machinery sectors continue to show robust job growth. In the last five years, the number of industrial jobs in Houston has grown by 15 percent, triple the growth rate of the economy as a whole. Industrial growth, in turn, has also stimulated employment growth in other sectors, including business services and construction.

As of 2012, Houston had 248,300 manufacturing employees. The most recent Houston Economic Indicator from the Dallas Fed indicates that, in spite of the recent decline in energy prices, Houston's manufacturing sector remains robust. In fact, from October to November 2014, manufacturing employment grew by 4.7 percent compared to the average rate of 4.4 percent.

Some of the highest-paying manufacturing positions available in Houston include industrial production managers ($126,280), machinists ($50,000 - $100,000), and senior manager of supply chain planning ($140,000).

2) Indianapolis, Indiana

In the last few years, Indiana has created manufacturing jobs at one of the fastest rates in the U.S. Likewise, manufacturing's share of output in Indiana remains the highest in the nation at 28.2 percent. The manufacture of chemicals accounts for seven percent of the state's GDP, largely due to an Indianapolis-based pharmaceutical company whose main location is in the state's capital, and it maintains vendors throughout Indiana.

Similarly, the Honda motor company expanded its factories to Greenwood, just over 30 miles southeast of Indianapolis, in 2011, creating thousands of new jobs. More recently, Honda expanded even farther into Columbus, which is just south of Greenwood. Columbus has significantly benefited from the auto industry's recovery, with Honda creating many new jobs in the area.

A few lucrative manufacturing jobs available in the Indianapolis area include industrial production managers ($89,890), plant operators ($75,860), and industrial engineers ($75,350).

3) Louisville, Kentucky

Home to Ford's massive assembly plant, Louisville, KY is another winner from the auto industry's comeback. In fact, Louisville ranks #2 in the nation on Forbes' list of "America's New Manufacturing Boomtowns." Since 2009, industrial jobs in the area have grown by 15 percent compared to the overall job growth rate of 9.6 percent. As of 2012, Louisville had 72,500 manufacturing employees. There is also a large additive and instruments manufacturing operation in Louisville, offering positions like chemical manager and production supervisor.

In general, Louisville has experienced an astounding rebound from the recession, mostly due to its manufacturing sector's success. Brookings ranks the city the fifth-fastest-recovering in the country, while New Geography ranked it second on its list of 45 booming American cities. Of the jobs lost in the recession, Louisville has restored about 80 percent of them, and manufacturing employment has increased by nine percent in the past year.

High-paying jobs in Louisville include manufacturing sales representatives ($89,440), industrial production managers ($87,160), industrial engineers ($77,500), and operations managers ($101,090). Some of the most prevalent manufacturing jobs in the city include team assemblers ($36,760), production supervisors ($52,440), and industrial machinery mechanics ($51,410).

4) Detroit, Michigan

There's no question the auto industry is on the mend, and the revival of American manufacturers has done wonders for Motor City. Manufacturing employment in the Great Lakes general area is strong, with towns like Troy, Warren, and Farmington Hills enjoying especially fast growth. Detroit ranks #8 on Forbes' list of U.S. manufacturing boomtowns, enjoying an 18-percent increase in manufacturing employment since 2009. Michigan's economy as a whole has reaped the benefits of the manufacturing rebound -- high-tech employment grew by seven percent from 2010 to 2011 compared to just 2.6 percent nationally.

Although few manufacturing jobs exist within Detroit's city limits, its metropolitan area is brimming with them. For example, the area around Troy and Warren is known as "automation alley." Manufacturers in this area specialize in more sophisticated, computerized auto production methods. Until the automation boom, these small cities consistently experienced manufacturing job loss. But, from 2009 to 2012, industrial employment jumped by 26 percent.

Common manufacturing jobs in Detroit include prototype planners, quality coordinators, press operators, and plant managers. High-paying manufacturing positions in the area include configuration analyst ($55,000), electrical engineering supervisor ($79,000), and floor assembly supervisor ($79,000).

5) San Jose, California

San Jose makes the list for its extremely high average manufacturing wage ($144,899) and share of total jobs in manufacturing (17.5 percent, the second-highest in the nation). The San Jose, Sunnyvale, and Santa Clara area, otherwise known as Silicon Valley, is the high-tech heart of the United States. The average wage of $92,574 in San Jose is over $52,000 lower than the city's average manufacturing wage, which is almost unheard of in any other area of the country. Specializing in electronics and computers, the area currently has about 153,000 jobs in the manufacturing sector.

Positions with Silicon Valley manufacturers range from the typical -- quality assurance inspectors, production leads, and assemblers -- to the highly specialized -- system reliability and manufacturing engineer, hardware automation specialist, and cloud networking products manager. Silicon Valley manufacturers are among the highest-paying in the country, offering jobs like supply chain manager ($110,000), process technician ($55,000), and engineering project manager ($120,000).

Contrary to what the doomsayers would have you believe, manufacturing is anything but dead in the U.S. Since the recession, these five cities have experienced amazing turnarounds, demonstrating consistently above-average manufacturing employment growth. The industries driving the growth range from pharmaceuticals and automobiles to computer technology, but the result is the same: these cities' manufacturing sectors are booming.

Contributed to jobs.net by Kim Hale

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