Economic Development

Region’s Manufacturing Sector Growing, Team NEO Reports

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Manufacturing in northeastern Ohio is alive, well and growing at a healthy clip, Team NEO said in a report released today.

Between 1990 and today, the manufacturing sector grew 17% to $43.6 billion. By 2025, Team NEO projects the sector will account for $53.3 billion of the regional economy, a 25% increase.

The challenge is finding the workers qualified to replace the 49,000 on the factory floors expected to retire over the next decade in the 18 counties that the economic development agency serves.

Among the local counties are Trumbull, Mahoning and Columbiana. The agency describes itself as “a private-sector regional collaboration of Northeast Ohio’s major businesses, foundations, chambers of commerce, economic development organizations and Jobs Ohio.”

In its latest status report, the Cleveland Plus Economic Review (DOWNLOAD PDF), Team NEO says it “takes an in-depth look at manufacturing, the largest sector of the region’s economy.”

The authors of the report, based on data furnished by Moody’s Economy.com, divide manufacturing into 21 sectors, 15 of which are projected to grow. Based on dollar volume, those expected to grow the most are fabricated metal product manufacturing, by 52% to $8.6 billion in output; transportation equipment manufacturing, by just under 50% to $8.3 billion; and chemical manufacturing, by just more than 21%, to $8 billion.

Transportation manufacturing includes both cars and trucks turned out at automotive plants (such as the General Motors Co. complex in Lordstown) and the suppliers of parts to such plants. Last November, NorthPoint Development, Riverside, Mo., announced it intends to erect as many as five buildings for a Lordstown Logistics Center. Combined these structures would have between 1.5 million and two million square feet of floor space on 173.5 acres near the GM complex and employ 2,000, Team NEO notes.

By 2025, fabricated metal products, transportation and chemicals combined would make up 47% of the manufacturing economy in the 18 counties, the report estimates.

And where manufacturing today constitutes 19.5% of the economy of northeastern Ohio, a decade hence it will make up 22% when it will be second only to health care as a source of employment.

The number of people employed by the manufacturing sector peaked in the mid 1950s and has declined ever since although there have been slight upticks during that descent. Since 1990, those employed in manufacturing in northeastern Ohio have fallen 40%, or 200,000 jobs, Team NEO says, but productivity per worker rose 92%.

The rate of productivity is expected to rise another 63% by 2025.

The perception that careers in manufacturing somehow necessitate dreary toil in a dirty, noisy — even dangerous — workplace is both outdated and wrong, Grant Goodrich, interim CEO of Team NEO, said. Goodrich, Jacob W. Duritsky, vice president for strategy and research, and Nina Holliday, senior director for marketing and communications, met with reporters April 29 in the offices of the Youngstown Warren Regional Chamber. Sitting in was Sarah A. Boyarko, chamber vice president for economic development. Their comments and the full Team NEO were embargoed for release until midnight today.

Goodrich said getting through to parents of teenagers and high school guidance counselors about the rewarding careers in manufacturing – emotionally and financially – is difficult. It’s a “cultural barrier” that must be crossed, he observed, that college is but one route to success. Trade schools, vocational schools, community colleges, and craft union apprenticeships also provide the qualifications, certificates and licenses needed to earn a comfortable living.

Other points the Team NEO report noted:

  • Since the end of the Great Recession, the regional economy has rebounded by 2.9% in 2010, 2.4% in 2011, 2.7% in 2012, 1.6% in 2013 and 0.6% last year. This year the projected increase is 2.4%. Since 1994, the economy has grown nearly 31%.
  • The vacancy rate for industrial space is 6.3% in the region, the lowest since the first quarter of 2008.
  • Office vacancy remains steady at 10.7%, down slightly from the last quarter of 2014 when it registered 10.9%. Occupied space is 148 million square feet.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.