According to a report released by the National Association of Manufacturers, Indiana is among the top states in the country in creation of manufacturing job creation.
According to the association, from December 2009 to March 2013, a total of 53.4 million jobs were created in the manufacturing job sector in Indiana. Only Michigan and Texas created more manufacturing jobs with a total of 88.1 million jobs created in Michigan and a total of 57.5 million jobs created in Texas. Other midwest states were included in the top ten manufacturing job creating states including Ohio, Illinois and Kentucky.
Indiana also ranked first in the top five states with highest shares of manufacturing employment touting a total of 16.4 percent. The state with the lowest share in manufacturing was Hawaii with 2.2 percent.
George Robertson, president of Kosciusko County Economic Development Corporation, stated that the state’s growth and strength in the manufacturing sector throughout the past few years can be seen on a local scale as well with approximately 40 percent of all jobs in the county falling into the manufacturing sector. Robertson stated that in December 2013, Kosciusko County was up 570 jobs from the previous year with most of the jobs created in manufacturing.
“Overall we are a manufacturing county and a manufacturing state,” explained Robertson. “Some of our core industries that are either located here or serve other industries are in growth modes such as automotive. By and large, the state has a lot of businesses that supply the automotive market so we are seeing increases there.
“Because of the importance of food globally, we have also seen a large increase in the companies that manufacture farm equipment and we have a bunch of those in this county – that is a growing industry. We are glad we are heavily invested in food because that is an industry sector that doesn’t go away or offshore. In addition, we have seen, and this speaks to our neighbors, a consolidation of the RV industry back in Indiana. Elkhart actually had a greater increase in manufacturing jobs than we did because of that consolidation. There are just a bunch of things going right.”
According to Robertson, the growth in several of the work sectors that have contributed strongly in job creation in manufacturing can be accredited to a multitude of “things going right.” One major component Robertson noted were changes made throughout the state to help create a climate that is attractive to businesses.
“I think that since the changes made with Governor (Mitch) Daniels and now Governor (Mike) Pence the state, which was always attractive to businesses, is now even more attractive. It’s really because of the business climate improvement. The number of prospects in the state jumped when we passed Right to Work. The state has done a great job at creating a business climate and we are the only northern state to fall into the top ten or top five states for best states to do business in.
Though re-shoring jobs lost to overseas operations has been a hot topic throughout the country lately, Robertson stated this will likely not have a major effect locally as the county has not lost much in terms of business to off shoring in the past years.
Robertson added that much of the misconception local orthopedic companies have began off shoring labor stems from the fact that those companies have expanded operations in countries such as China and India. He said due to the rapid growth of a middle class in those countries, many businesses are adding operations there.
“Re-shoring is a national trend,” explained Robertson. “I have had three expansions of manufacturers in the last 12 months that moved operations out of Mexico. We probably gained 100 jobs from re-shoring. We’re not likely to get a huge boost in that. One of the misconceptions of off shoring, our big orthopedic companies are not in China for products in the U.S. They are in China because it has the fastest growing middle class in the world. Sometimes companies put locations in other countries because they have to – China wont let you sell your product there unless you have a plant there.”
Though Robertson does not believe the county will see major job growth from re-shoring efforts, he does believe we will instead see an increase in production in areas that may currently be developing offshore. This increase he attributes to advancements in technology locally.
“There are companies like Winona PVD that developed an environmentally safe way to make chrome wheels here again in America. Back when the EPA banned all chrome dipping, that whole industry moved to China and India. Now, because of new technology, they are creating new jobs here, were not moving jobs, but we are taking jobs away from China and India. They are in the midst of doubling their size here in Warsaw. Thats not really re-shoring but it is one of the ways that technology is making us more competitive here.”
When asked whether the county and state can expect to continue being a major leader in creation of new manufacturing jobs, Robertson said the manufacturing job sector’s growth would largely depend on combating the elimination of low-skilled positions to automation. A major challenge regionally is how to ensure workers who are currently unskilled laborers by significantly moving up skill levels. According to Robertson, the future of creating jobs within the manufacturing realm is almost entirely contingent upon this challenge.
“I think we will always be a leader in manufacturing, but the challenge we face is that as companies – and productivity and cost is the driving factors for all manufacturers – begin to use more and more robots, we could see low-skill positions in manufacturing continue to be eliminated,” said Robertson. “We have a regional coalition with the four counties working with WorkOne and Ivy Tech on how to take the unskilled workers and significantly move them up a big step. We are working on that and it is our significant challenge. If we meet that challenge then we will keep creating jobs.”