Study encourages policies that foster high-tech U.S. manufacturing?

By By Greg Hack

Associated Press

Published: Friday, May 11 2012 9:21 a.m. MDT

KANSAS CITY, Mo. _ U.S. manufacturing has become more diversified and advanced, a new Brookings Institution report says, but more needs to be done to build on differing regions' strengths and to support development of highly skilled manufacturing and its high-paying jobs.

Brookings looked at data for 2000 through 2010 from all 366 U.S. metropolitan areas and broke out details for the 100 largest metro areas.

The report noted that Kansas City, unlike most big cities, had a diverse manufacturing base rather than being focused on one sector. Brookings regularly studies economic trends in urban areas, but it said this was its first analysis of manufacturing.

Unlike some studies, this one didn't have a formula by which it gave cities an overall ranking.

In the study's several categories, however, Kansas City did best in its change in manufacturing jobs from 2000 to 2010. Though the area's manufacturing jobs dropped by 22 percent, that was good for a No. 18 ranking among the 100 biggest metro areas and compared favorably to the 33 percent decline for all cities.

The study said the area had 72,880 manufacturing jobs, ranking No. 25. However, manufacturing jobs as a percentage of all area jobs was 7.3 percent, below the national average of 8.5 percent. The top three manufacturing industries, the study said, by their share of the area's total manufacturing jobs, were fabricated metals at 15 percent; food at 8.6 percent; and motor vehicles and parts at 8.3 percent.

The city's average manufacturing wage of $59,531 ranked No. 44.

The study was released Wednesday at a forum in Columbus, Ohio, on globalization. Among the study's national findings:

_Manufacturing wages vary greatly across metro areas. The average in San Jose, Calif., for example, was $145,000, but in McAllen, Texas, was $35,000.

_The shift of manufacturing to the South ended in the decade studied, and the Midwest had the fastest manufacturing job growth in the past two years. 

_Most metro areas fall into one of six broad categories: computers and electronics; transportation equipment; chemicals; machinery; food production; and low-wage manufacturing industries.

_Rather than striving to diversify their manufacturing, regions would do better to build on their strengths, the study said.

_Investments in research and development, high-tech infrastructure, and education and training are needed to encourage what the study calls "high-road" manufacturing, which has good-paying jobs that require high-level skills and can lead to innovative products and processes.

(c)2012 The Kansas City Star (Kansas City, Mo.)

Visit The Kansas City Star (Kansas City, Mo.) at www.kansascity.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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