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Report: Metro Hartford Still In Top Tier Among Manufacturing Regions


May 08, 2012

Metro Hartford lost about 23 percent of its manufacturing jobs from 2000 to 2010, but that erosion was slower than losses in the South, Midwest and in the nation as a whole, where 33 to 34 percent of the jobs evaporated, a new report shows.

The Brookings Institution analyzed manufacturing employment in the nation's 100 largest metropolitan areas including all jobs at manufacturing companies, not just production jobs.

The report disagrees with the conventional wisdom in many quarters that manufacturing is irrelevant to the American economy. Even though just 8.5 percent of workers are in manufacturing, those jobs are higher paid than other sectors and drive innovation, the authors said.

The report is being released Wednesday, as Hartford hosts a regional manufacturing trade show expected to attract 4,000 attendees. Gov.Dannel P. Malloywelcomed attendees Tuesday, and the show continues through Thursday at the Connecticut Convention Center.

The proportion of manufacturing workers is 10.5 percent in Metro Hartford, which includes Hartford, Tolland and Middlesex counties. That puts the area in the top 20 of the 100 largest metro areas, though far below Wichita, where airframe manufacturing is king, and the Silicon Valley, where far fewer chips are made than once were, but engineers at Apple who design iPads made in China count toward the manufacturing total.

Brookings questioned long-time economic development practices that continue to bear fruit in places such as Charleston, S.C., such as tax abatements, calling them a race to the bottom and "artificial incentives for manufacturers to seek low-wage locations."

The report, "Locating American Manufacturing: Trends in the Geography of Production," said the incentives cost state and local treasuries $70 billion each year, and that money would be better used in job training and offices like the Connecticut Center for Advanced Technology.

The Hartford region has regained manufacturing jobs at a slower pace than the nation as a whole since the recession ended, the report said.

It praised Massachusetts, Northeast Ohio and Newark as places that have planning strategies around clusters. The report says areas such as Hartford should capitalize on their specialization aerospace manufacturing, in the case of central Connecticut and invest in technology research to support members of the big players' supply chains.

Giant firms such as United Technologies squeeze their supply chain on price to a point that those smaller companies have a hard time upgrading their technology or doing research, the report said.

Brookings noted that Midwest manufacturing has rebounded faster than the South, as its manufacturing workforce grew by 5 percent from the beginning of 2010 and the end of 2011, and hoped that might be a sign that manufacturing is no longer fleeing for right-to-work states. However, that growth is largely because auto sales have rebounded, and auto manufacturing has expanded as a result.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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