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15 Cities Where Manufacturing Is Thriving

Manufacturing workers
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Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared on Construction Coverage.

The health of the manufacturing sector in the U.S. has been a major focus of public attention in recent years, with populist political figures like Donald Trump on the right and Sen. Bernie Sanders on the left offering critiques of U.S. trade policy and debating how best to assist American manufacturers and workers. Policymakers and economic leaders of all stripes have put new focus on support for manufacturing. From former President Trump’s focus on trade policy and President Joe Biden’s $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill to companies “reshoring” plants and consumers expressing preferences for American-made goods, combating the apparent decline of U.S. manufacturing has become a shared commitment.

Manufacturing is important to the U.S. economy for several reasons. Manufacturing jobs have historically been a pathway to the middle class, offering good pay without requiring high levels of education. Companies that rely on manufacturing invest heavily in research and development, which helps drive innovation. Domestic manufacturing also contributes to more secure and resilient supply chains — a point that has become clear during the COVID-19 pandemic.

But in recent decades, the role of manufacturing in the U.S. economy has been diminished. Many companies began moving factories abroad in search of lower costs and better profit margins. Trade deals like NAFTA reduced the cost of foreign imports, giving U.S. producers more competitors. Technological advances made manufacturing processes more efficient, which reduced the need for many manufacturing jobs.

The effects of these shifts in manufacturing are most apparent in employment, which has decreased over the years as a share of overall employment and in total numbers. After manufacturing peaked near 40% of U.S. jobs at the height of World War II, the sector has seen a steady decline over time, to around 8.4% of employment today. In total employment, manufacturing jobs peaked at 19.5 million in the late 1970s and fell off sharply after 2000 to just 12.6 million today.

But despite the decrease in manufacturing employment over the past several decades, manufacturing output as a share of real GDP has stayed relatively stable. Since 1997, manufacturing has fluctuated between 11.5% and 13.2% of GDP, after adjusting for inflation. While manufacturing output as a share of nominal GDP has declined over that span (from 16.2% to 10.9%), the change in the nominal figures reflects both growth in other sectors as well as slower price increases for manufactured goods more so than a decline in manufacturing productivity.

The data used in this analysis is from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, researchers looked at GDP, employment rates, and other factors. More information on our methodology is at the end.

15. Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL

Tampa, Florida
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  • Composite score: 59.2
  • Manufacturing employment growth (2010-2020): +16.5%
  • Manufacturing GDP growth (2010-2020): +48.1%
  • Manufacturing share of total employment (2020): 4.0%
  • Manufacturing share of total GDP (2020): 7.7%

14. Tucson, AZ

Tucson
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  • Composite score: 59.4
  • Manufacturing employment growth (2010-2020): +13.9%
  • Manufacturing GDP growth (2010-2020): +28.4%
  • Manufacturing share of total employment (2020): 5.7%
  • Manufacturing share of total GDP (2020): 12.6%

13. Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL

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  • Composite score: 60.9
  • Manufacturing employment growth (2010-2020): +33.5%
  • Manufacturing GDP growth (2010-2020): +36.1%
  • Manufacturing share of total employment (2020): 3.3%
  • Manufacturing share of total GDP (2020): 4.9%

12. San Antonio-New Braunfels, TX

San Antonio, Texas outdoors
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  • Composite score: 62.4
  • Manufacturing employment growth (2010-2020): +13.7%
  • Manufacturing GDP growth (2010-2020): +128.4%
  • Manufacturing share of total employment (2020): 3.8%
  • Manufacturing share of total GDP (2020): 9.5%

11. Austin-Round Rock-Georgetown, TX

Traffic in Austin, Texas
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  • Composite score: 62.6
  • Manufacturing employment growth (2010-2020): +30.9%
  • Manufacturing GDP growth (2010-2020): +21.9%
  • Manufacturing share of total employment (2020): 4.5%
  • Manufacturing share of total GDP (2020): 11.2%

10. Tulsa, OK

Tulsa Oklahoma
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  • Composite score: 63.7
  • Manufacturing employment growth (2010-2020): +16.8%
  • Manufacturing GDP growth (2010-2020): +20.5%
  • Manufacturing share of total employment (2020): 9.1%
  • Manufacturing share of total GDP (2020): 13.3%

9. Phoenix-Mesa-Chandler, AZ

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  • Composite score: 64.2
  • Manufacturing employment growth (2010-2020): +22.2%
  • Manufacturing GDP growth (2010-2020): +37.2%
  • Manufacturing share of total employment (2020): 5.1%
  • Manufacturing share of total GDP (2020): 9.6%

8. Raleigh-Cary, NC

Raleigh, North Carolina
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  • Composite score: 64.2
  • Manufacturing employment growth (2010-2020): +14.4%
  • Manufacturing GDP growth (2010-2020): +56.8%
  • Manufacturing share of total employment (2020): 3.8%
  • Manufacturing share of total GDP (2020): 15.1%

7. Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, OR-WA

Portland skyline
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  • Composite score: 67.2
  • Manufacturing employment growth (2010-2020): +14.1%
  • Manufacturing GDP growth (2010-2020): +28.8%
  • Manufacturing share of total employment (2020): 8.5%
  • Manufacturing share of total GDP (2020): 17.8%

6. Nashville-Davidson–Murfreesboro–Franklin, TN

Vanderbilt Unversity
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  • Composite score: 68.7
  • Manufacturing employment growth (2010-2020): +22.6%
  • Manufacturing GDP growth (2010-2020): +44.8%
  • Manufacturing share of total employment (2020): 6.1%
  • Manufacturing share of total GDP (2020): 10.3%

5. San Francisco-Oakland-Berkeley, CA

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  • Composite score: 70.0
  • Manufacturing employment growth (2010-2020): +19.0%
  • Manufacturing GDP growth (2010-2020): +65.2%
  • Manufacturing share of total employment (2020): 4.8%
  • Manufacturing share of total GDP (2020): 15.5%

4. Detroit-Warren-Dearborn, MI

Wayne County Michigan
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  • Composite score: 70.7
  • Manufacturing employment growth (2010-2020): +22.9%
  • Manufacturing GDP growth (2010-2020): +20.3%
  • Manufacturing share of total employment (2020): 9.7%
  • Manufacturing share of total GDP (2020): 17.0%

3. San Diego-Chula Vista-Carlsbad, CA

San Diego, California
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  • Composite score: 70.9
  • Manufacturing employment growth (2010-2020): +21.5%
  • Manufacturing GDP growth (2010-2020): +58.6%
  • Manufacturing share of total employment (2020): 6.1%
  • Manufacturing share of total GDP (2020): 11.8%

2. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA

San Jose California
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  • Composite score: 77.4
  • Manufacturing employment growth (2010-2020): +9.8%
  • Manufacturing GDP growth (2010-2020): +94.6%
  • Manufacturing share of total employment (2020): 12.6%
  • Manufacturing share of total GDP (2020): 24.2%

1. Grand Rapids-Kentwood, MI

Grand Rapids, Michigan
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  • Composite score: 79.6
  • Manufacturing employment growth (2010-2020): +28.1%
  • Manufacturing GDP growth (2010-2020): +20.3%
  • Manufacturing share of total employment (2020): 16.5%
  • Manufacturing share of total GDP (2020): 24.2%

Methodology

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The data used in this analysis is from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis’s GDP & Employment data. To determine the locations where manufacturing is thriving, researchers calculated a composite score based on the following factors and weights:

  • Manufacturing employment growth from 2010 to 2020 (2X)
  • Manufacturing GDP growth from 2010 to 2020 (2X)
  • Manufacturing share of total employment in 2020 (1X)
  • Manufacturing share of total GDP in 2020 (1X)

To improve relevance, only metropolitan areas with at least 100,000 residents were included. Additionally, metros were grouped into cohorts based on population size: small (100,000–349,999), midsize (350,000–999,999), and large (1 million or more).

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

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