What is in this article?:
Can U.S. manufacturing maintain its momentum and continue to lead the recovery?
Gas and Steel
Overall, according to the Brookings Institute, Washington, D.C., the U.S. economy remains strongest in advanced manufacturing sectors with high technological and skills requirements, such as aerospace, industrial and energy equipment, automobiles, and medical devices. “We have seen a number of opportunities in the manufacturing/industrial market segments,” says Clark. “But I can’t say there is a certain segment that is better than another. It really is dependent on what is driving the project — i.e., fracking, outdated infrastructure, sustainability, etc.”
According to Grady Saucier, VP marketing for electrical instrumentation contractors MMR Group, Baton Rouge, La., the energy and fracking sectors are big parts of his firm’s business right now. “That’s helped our industry and our company tremendously,” Saucier says. “The feedstock of the chemical industry is getting cheaper, so it makes us more competitive than the international world. When natural gas comes down, you get long-term contracts, so there’s a stability there in the energy that we haven’t seen in a long time. You can get 15- to 20-year gas contracts, so you can really determine what your energy use is going to be — and your energy costs — so they can calculate what they can sell their products for.”
MMR Group is also performing work for other manufacturing sectors as well. “The automotive industry is doing fairly well,” Saucier says. “The metal business is doing well.”
Contracts have come from Mercedes, ThyssenKrupp (TK) Steel Mill, and Nucor Steel. “TK built a $4 billion new sheet metal plant, which is largely for the automotive industry,” Saucier explains. “It goes hand in hand there.”
Motor City Electric Co. has also provided services for both automotive and steel industries. “Obviously, the automotives are doing a lot of retrofitting to their existing facilities, changing out their assembly lines and their assembly systems,” Frantz says. “They’re doing a lot of upgrading of existing systems and their existing facilities.” His firm recently worked with Chrysler, building a new paint shop for one of its facilities, along with a new body shop.
Steel producers are also retrofitting facilities as well as expanding, according to Frantz. “I talk about automotive because I’m from Detroit, but we’re starting to see a resurgence in certain other areas,” says Frantz, who estimates an increase of 50% or more in the automotive, steel, and utility sectors. “Steel production is the same way,” he continues. “Severstal Steel put a whole brand new facility in for a pickle line and cold mill line last year. We did that job for them.”