States look to manufacturing for jobs growth


Several states are looking to manufacturing as a means of adding jobs. Vermont recently released a study highlighting the impact of its local manufacturing industry and announced a plan to support job growth in the sector. In Maine, Governor Paul LePage and the Manufacturers Association of Maine have launched a statewide outreach campaign aimed at attracting more youth to the industry. Manufacturing is also booming in the Mountain States which continue to lead the nation in sales, employment, inventories and delivery lead time.

The Institute for Supply Management’s manufacturing sector index rose to 53.1 from 50.2 in December. Of the 18 manufacturing industries in the US 13 reported solid gains for the month over the end of last year which saw the index hovering around the break-even point and potentially verging on contraction.

In boom regions like the Mountain States that number has been above break even point for 39 straight months. Given this lasting growth, it’s no surprise that other states are looking for ways to get in on the action. Currently, manufacturing accounts for 1000 of the businesses in Vermont – a sizable number for such a small state. In total, manufacturing accounts for approximately 11.1% or just under $3 billion of the state’s GDP. However, 60% of those businesses are very small, many have fewer than 10 employees.

In a new report released through the governors office, and authored by Commerce Secretary Lawrence Miller the Commerce Office offers recommendations to improve job growth in the sector and attract new businesses. These recommendations, if used, will have an impact on the state’s education system by increasing the emphasis on science, technology, engineering and math or the STEM curriculum. The state also wants to develop a new curricula focused specifically on entrepreneurship in an effort to develop future business owners early.

Beyond education, the report emphasizes the need to restore state funding to jobs programs, much of which was cut during the post-crisis budget cycles. Miller also wants to build an “Innovation Index” which interactively tracks Vermont’s innovation and business performance relative to the rest of of the country.

The story is similar in Maine, where the Manufacturers Association of Maine, a business and industry association serving more than 425 members, partnered with the Office of the Governor and Maine Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) to develop a two-year outreach campaign that will focus on students, parents, teachers and the general public to promote manufacturing-related job opportunities located in Maine.

The Manufacturers Association of Maine has set a fundraising goal of $300,000 for the campaign, of which $30,000 from the private sector has already been raised within the past few weeks. The Governor announced on Monday that DECD will provide $50,000 to support the effort.

The outreach initiative came as a result of a report from the Manufacturers Association identifying approximately 1,000 jobs unfilled because of a skills gap, and many Maine students and workers not viewing manufacturing as a viable career option. The group hopes that with the campaign, they can change the narrative about manufacturing work away from grinding assembly jobs in often unsafe workplaces to the more high skill work it is today.

“Manufacturing is critically important to Maine’s economy. Manufacturing companies employ over 51,000 workers in high-tech, high-skilled jobs in Maine,” said Governor LePage. “They pay well too. Wages in manufacturing are 28 percent higher than all industries in Maine. An average salary in production is about $46,000 per year. Average engineering wages are $62,000.”