How often do you see labels on clothes or other products that say, "Made in China" or "Made in "Sri Lanka" or "Made in India?" It's getting so hard to find labels that say "Made In America" that people have started thinking that we don't make anything anymore. I ran across an editorial in Business Week recently that was making the point that we still manufacture a lot of things in America. After reading the editorial, I decided to do some digging into the state of the manufacturing industry in America. Of course you don't have to look far to see many good-paying jobs are being lost in the auto industry. In 1959, 28% of all workers were employed by the manufacturing industry, in 2009 it's only 8%. But the news is not all negative, in fact, we're still the #1 manufacturing nation in the world. China is #4.
My next step, I contacted Missouri Enterprise, a non-profit organization that helps small and mid-sized manufacturers in the state learn how to operate more efficiently and find ways to compete with cheaper labor overseas. Missouri Enterprise president, Mary Davis was a wealth of information and optimism. She pointed out that Missouri's manufacturing industry is diverse, making high quality goods, such as food products, electronics, railroad cars and many other items. And she pointed out that employees in manufacturing jobs earn an average salary that's higher than the average salary of all workers in Missouri. The same holds true for workers in manufacturing in Illinois. Then Missouri Enterprise pointed us toward a number of companies that they've worked with, which are good examples of the quality and creativity that are helping American companies compete and outperform foreign companies that have the advantage of cheap labor.
What I learned and then reported in my story is that the manufacturing industry in America has declined in size, but is still very strong. To compete with cheap foreign labor U.S. companies are tapping into niche markets, using high-tech processes to improve precision and productivity and producing higher quality products than competing nations. The companies we profiled in our story are good examples.
In our story we profiled these companies:
deVan Sealants, maker of specialty sealants and adhesives.
Cambridge Engineering Company, which makes high efficiency industrial space heaters.
Kirkwood Stair & Millwork, designers and manufacturers of custom staircases, doors and millwork for high end residential and commercial projects.
The Children's Factory, makers of soft play equipment for pre-schools and kindergartens.
Lange-Stegmann, operates the nation's largest urea fertilizer import terminal and produces an additive to fertilizer that makes more of the nitrogen get absorbed into plants.
Western Wire Products, which makes standard and specialized fasteners.