Is It Manufacturing's Moment?

Manufacturing has a bad image these days. For those of us inside Route 128, it can feel like there’s nothing left. But the reality for the rest of the state is very different.

Manufacturing still employs approximately 260,000 people or 8 percent of the workforce. And these people are working in good jobs at good wages — in the areas where manufacturing is still going on, wages in the industry are above the area median.

If you’d like to know more about manufacturing in Massachusetts, I’d encourage you to look at work by the state’s Commonwealth Corporation and Northeastern’s Barry Bluestone.

With Obama’s State of the Union, there’s increased attention to the industry. (I’m happy to see the attention paid to the industry, but I’m far from convinced that his proposed tax credits are the answer.)

More important than government tax credits, U.S. manufacturing is poised to regain at least some of its competitive position. A Boston Consulting Group report comes up with a surprising finding — the always-high (relative and absolute) level of productivity in the U.S. is combining with rising labor costs in China to make U.S. manufacturing competitive once again.

For Massachusetts, this may be the moment to secure existing jobs and create new ones in manufacturing. One place to start is addressing our high electricity costs. And I’m hopeful that the new community college/workforce development initiative from the Governor bears fruit (although inaction on years worth of comparative data makes me skeptical).

Contrary to the views of some, manufacturing remains an important employer in Massachusetts. Can we take advantage of this moment to make it even more so?

 

Crossposted at Pioneer Institute’s blog.