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Can U.S. manufacturing maintain its momentum and continue to lead the recovery?
Detroit benefited greatly from the revival of the auto industry after the federal rescue of General Motors and Chrysler in 2009, and it has added jobs rapidly over the past year. Firms in the Cleveland and Charlotte areas have ramped up production to take advantage of the shale-gas boom sweeping much of the country. However, much of the recent upsurge in manufacturing activity seems to be located in the South.
One of Severstal’s recently expanded plants is located in Columbus, Miss., in the state’s “Golden Triangle,” close to major North American automotive customers and the expanding Southern manufacturing region of the United States. The location offers access to rail, truck, and water routes for economical delivery throughout the region, Mexico, and the world.
Airbus recently unveiled plans for a $600 million factory to manufacture narrowbody aircraft in Mobile, Ala., its first U.S. factory to make passenger aircraft. It expects to employ 1,000 workers there.Fabrice Brégier, Airbus’ chief executive, said the company had chosen a “competitive environment” for its factory, meaning Alabama is a “right to work” state where workers cannot be forced to join a trade union as part of their contracts. In addition, he described Airbus’ U.S. investment as a geographically strategic move, bringing the assembly line closer to the firm’s customers.
“They’re coming down to the South — Alabama, Mississippi, and Georgia,” says Saucier, whose firm’s location in Baton Rouge, La., is due to the petrochemical industry. “We cut our teeth on oil refineries and chemical plants. That’s why we’re in Baton Rouge.”
However, MMR Group boasts offices across the country and in international locations. Plus, the firm goes where the work is located. “We travel quite a bit,” he explains. “We’ve got 19 offices around the country, and those small offices are geared to do the smaller projects. But from the Baton Rouge office, we can do the larger projects. So it’s a good place to be. It’s a good background of projects, staff and craftsmen here, and we ship them all over the world.”
Faith Technologies is seeing an increase in projects throughout the United States, but Clark finds the highest percentage is found either in the Midwest or Southeast. However, when it comes to complex manufacturing or industrial projects, he feels location doesn’t come into play as strongly as with a commercial or municipal project. “About 75% of the projects we are currently working on in this market are outside of geographies served by our branch locations,” he says.
Frantz at Motor City Electric sees the resurgence occurring in different areas throughout the country. In Florida, the firm performs utility work. It has also worked on projects in Kentucky. “It’s been pretty good so far,” he says. In addition, the firm is starting to see new projects in Las Vegas, one of the places where construction was hardest hit by the recession. “You can start to see where Las Vegas is starting to come back a little bit,” he says. Furthermore, international work, particularly north of the border in Canada, is strong. “It seems to be steady pretty much everywhere,” Frantz concludes.