A Robust Manufacturing Region

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manufacturing photoTHOUGH MUCH HAS BEEN SAID in recent years about the decline of American manufacturing, the industry is alive and strong — and even growing — in and around Mecklenburg County. The numbers are impressive.

Charlotte’s 16-county region is by far the largest manufacturing center in North Carolina. With more than 10,000 manufacturing firms and 435,000 employees, the region accounts for more than a quarter of the state’s employment in this sector.

The Charlotte MSA has 1,769 manufacturing firms, which employ 60,209 workers and pay more than $900 million in payroll. Charlotte also ranks in the top 50 U.S. cities by number of industrial jobs but has a lower hourly wage for production workers than most of the other cities on the list due an affordable cost of living. This industry is part of the lifeblood that keeps Mecklenburg County — and the Southeast — operating.

Charlotte Captured Manufacturing Early
North Carolina has long been a strong manufacturing state. As far back as the 1820s and ’30s, manufacturing helped this state prosper. In the early 19th century, Charlotte was a bustling village rich with successful commercial and manufacturing operations. Through the decades, Charlotteans have worked looms, built Model T cars and Titan missiles, molded metals, bound books, produced snack foods and so much more. Even in recent years, as much as 11 percent of the North Carolina workforce worked in a factory, making the state one of the most industrialized states in the nation.

While many of the Mecklenburg County textile mills that once dominated manufacturing here are now jazzy lofts and open-air offices, the new age of Mecklenburg manufacturing continues to keep Charlotte strong. Today more than 1,000 firms are manufacturing in Mecklenburg County. They range from Fortune 500 companies to entrepreneurial start-up operations with considerable potential for long-term success.

 

2012 Mean Hourly Earnings
of Production Workers

 

MSA

 

 

Atlanta

$15.24

 

Memphis

$15.47

 

Charlotte

$16.01

 

U.S.

$16.45

 

Cleveland

$17.01

 

Cincinnati

$17.20

 

Richmond

$17.25

 

Denver

$17.36

 

Houston

$18.19

 

Philadelphia

$18.43

 

Detroit

$21.23

 

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2012

Welcoming a New Age of Manufacturing
Manufacturing in Mecklenburg County has grown and diversified through the decades. Once considered a leader in textiles, today the Charlotte area has countless firms specializing in sophisticated intelligent manufacturing, with precision metrology, optoelectronic and biomedical technology developing alongside such traditional manufacturing as primary and fabricated metals, machinery, chemicals, plastics, electronics, transportation equipment, food and beverages.

The University of North Carolina at Charlotte is positioned to be a top-tier research university. The university created the Charlotte Research Institute, which focuses on applied research in intelligent energy, manufacturing and precision metrology, eBusiness technology, optoelectronics and optical communications, biosciences and biotechnology.

Manufacturers come to Charlotte to tap our skilled and productive workforce. Charlotte is home to Central Piedmont Community College, the state’s largest community college, and UNC Charlotte, the fourth largest University in the 16-campus UNC system. Both offer worker-training programs, including programs that can be customized to meet employers’ needs. CPCC has multiple campus locations around Mecklenburg and also offers companies on-site training programs.

Manufacturing is changing. Technology increases productivity and sophistication. And each year, the Carolinas become more attractive to manufacturers, both domestic and foreign. Look closely and you will find the Carolinas’ landscape dotted with vehicle manufacturers, an industry that has taken hold here in recent years. The industry, which planted roots in the Southeast when Nissan and Toyota built plants in Tennessee and Kentucky in the 1980s, took off in the Carolinas when BMW built its Greer, S.C., assembly plant in the 1990s. Today, the two states are home to hundreds of plants that supply the factories making trucks, cars, buses and all-terrain vehicles.

Manufacturing Remains Strong Today
North Carolina is the nation’s ninth largest manufacturing state. There is little question why. One recent University of North Carolina study calculated that North Carolina is the most productive of the nation’s top 20 industrialized states. For every dollar of labor cost, North Carolina workers add $5.91 in value.

Beyond our productivity records and strong work ethic, North Carolina law permits individual workers to choose whether or not they wish to join a labor union. As a result, North Carolina, which has one of the nation’s highest percentage of manufacturing employment, also has the nation’s lowest union membership, currently just 2.9 percent (versus the 11.3 percent national average). Average manufacturing production wages in the Charlotte MSA are $16.01 per hour, well below the national average of $16.45.

Charlotte Makes Doing Business Easier
Businesses come for Charlotte’s long-standing tradition of public-private cooperation. City leaders work closely with the private sector when planning development and carrying out large projects for the good of Charlotte. They enjoy favorable tax rates, pro-business governments, strong worker training programs and much more.

Manufacturing firms in particular are attracted by the city’s huge transportation and distribution facilities. Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT), located less than 25 minutes from most Charlotte business parks, is home to American Airlines’ second-largest hub and offers direct or non-stop service to more than 142 different cities, including Paris, Frankfurt, Munich, London, Rio de Janeiro, Rome and Toronto. Charlotte Air Cargo Center’s 500,000 square feet of warehouse space gives manufacturers and other companies quick access to runways, railways and interstate highways.

Our interstate system is a magnet to firms looking to ship goods quickly and easily. Interstate 77 passes through Charlotte connecting Miami to Cleveland, and Interstate 85 heads south to Atlanta and north to Washington, D.C. Just minutes beyond Mecklenburg’s north border, Interstate 40 links the eastern United States to the West. Charlotte is a powerhouse in trucking transportation. More than 817 transportation and warehousing companies and 339 trucking companies call Mecklenburg County home.

We have resources to help manufacturers excel, including the chamber’s Manufacturing Council, which keeps manufacturers informed about local, state and federal initiatives that impact manufacturing operations and voices manufacturers’ needs and concerns. This powerful network works to improve the business environment and increase manufacturers’ competitiveness. It also helps resolve common issues and provides practical guidance on ways manufacturers can improve.

The Charlotte foreign trade zone, which allows goods to be brought in from overseas duty-free and manufactured into a product, is one of the largest in the state. The Charlotte chapter of the North Carolina World Trade Association, which promotes international trade, is one of the largest in the nation. The Manufacturing Extension Partnership, a nationwide network that helps smaller manufacturers compete globally, is active in Charlotte and throughout North Carolina. And the U.S. Export Assistance Center helps many local firms navigate world trade issues.

Every day, products designed and manufactured in Charlotte are shipped to markets nationwide and around the world. In 2011, the Charlotte MSA exported more than $6.2 billion in goods around the world – a $2 billion increase from 2009.

With such a strong workforce, operation and distribution infrastructure, pro-business climate and more, it is no wonder that more manufacturers increasingly choose to call Charlotte home. In 2011 and 2012, companies such as Madrona Specialty Foods, Jetion Solar Corp., Bosch Rexroth Corporation, Karl Marbach GmbH & Company, JELD-WEN and Beardow Adams announced new job creations in the Charlotte manufacturing market.

Southeast's Leading Manufacturing Centers

Metro Area

# of Firms

Employees

Payroll (billion)

Value Added (billion)

Value Shipment (billion)

Atlanta

4,312

161,018

$6.90

$25.50

$58.50

Tampa

2,323

65,945

2.7

9.3

18.6

Charlotte

1,926

75,520

3.3

22.7

37.0

Nashville

1,583

74,547

3.1

(D)

(D)

Orlando

1,473

43,017

2.1

7.9

14.0

Richmond

1,035

42,516

2.2

14.3

22.8

Memphis

1,017

43,692

2.0

8.2

22.4

Norfolk

1,000

57,622

2.6

8.1

16.1

(D) = Withheld. Source: U.S. Census Bureau — 2007 Economic Census

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Diverse Manufacturing
Charlotte-Gastonia-Concord MSA
(North Carolina Counties only)

 


NAICS


No. Firms

No. Employees

311

Food

97

7,072

312

Beverage

17

774

313

Textile Mill

59

4,357

314

Textile Products

46

738

315

Apparel

26

521

321

Wood

50

1,225

322

Paper

52

1,825

323

Printing

211

2,621

324

Petroleum & Coal Products

6

206

325

Chemical

109

3,506

326

Plastics & Rubber

75

4,778

327

Nonmetallic Mineral

83

1,412

331

Primary Metal

29

2,330

332

Fabricated Metal

313

6,687

333

Machinery

196

7056

334

Computer & Electronic

64

3,312

335

Electrical Equipment

41

1428

336

Transportation

68

3,556

337

Furniture

76

1,498

339

Miscellaneous

129

2,894

 

Total

1,749

57,818

Source: 2012 Employment Security Commission