You may have seen the colorful flags lighting up Main Street in Lincolnton, the banners displayed proudly outside our county’s industrial parks, or the TV ads touting job potential in manufacturing. This month, we take time to show our appreciation for the strong industry and manufacturing sector hard at work right here in Lincoln County. For the past nine years, the Lincoln Economic Development Association (LEDA) has sponsored a month-long celebration of the companies and workers that fire the engine of our local economy.
Why take the time to celebrate industry? As business leaders in the community, we understand the holistic impact that a healthy manufacturing industry can have on the community. We want to educate all citizens—especially parents, teachers and students—about the great opportunities that come from industry.
The financial benefits of manufacturing for Lincoln County are significant. Manufacturing jobs make up almost 20% of the county’s employment, compared to just 8.8% for the state. Despite the recession, we have seen positive local trends in the last couple of years. Since 2010, LEDA has helped garner over 450 new jobs in Lincoln County along with $68 million in new investment and $39 million in expansion investment.
The revenues that these businesses generate, the tax-payers that they employ, and the indirect jobs they create fuel the livelihood of our community through a strong tax base. And let’s be clear, the jobs that come with expanded manufacturing sector are high-quality, high-paying jobs. In 2011, the average U.S. manufacturing worker earned $77,060 annually, including pay and benefits. This compares to an average worker in all industries earning just $56,436 according to the National Association of Manufacturers.
The growth we’ve experienced is due to the advantages that Lincoln County offers including our educated workforce, favorable location, and a great quality of life. At LEDA we are also seeing a trend in interest stemming from the global economy. We have a lot of interest from companies headquartered overseas as well as American companies who are beginning to “on-shore” facilities that once had been outsourced overseas. Many of you may not realize that Lincoln County is home to companies from Canada, Australia, Austria, Brazil, Japan, Germany, Israel, Singapore, Switzerland and China.
While Lincoln County’s new and expanding businesses cite our workforce as a rationale for locating here, we are also at risk from the workforce gap that the U.S. is experiencing overall. Today’s manufacturing jobs are highly skilled and include a wide range of education levels. Unfortunately, many businesses cannot fill these high-quality jobs. The Manufacturing Institute reported that even in the current recession an estimated 600,000 manufacturing jobs are going unfilled due to a lack of skills and certifications.
While the workforce gap is a problem, it also represents an opportunity for our kids in the future. LEDA and its partners, the Industrial Manager’s Association and Lincoln County Schools, are not taking the looming skills gap sitting down. We are working together to develop programs and to influence curriculum that will enhance practical skills and ensure that the lag does not hinder our economic growth.
That’s why we take the month of October to focus on industry and the companies who make Lincoln County a wonderful place to live and work. Take some time to visit www.lincolneda.org to learn more about LEDA and thanks for visiting manufacturingafuture.com. To check out the activities for Industry Appreciation Month and learn more about the high-quality jobs that make up the manufacturing sector, read on.