Special Report

American Cities Where Manufacturing Is Booming

5. Grand Rapids-Wyoming, Mich.
> Manufacturing contribution to export growth: 90.2%
> GDP (2010): $35.4 billion (35th lowest)
> Exports share of GDP: 15.3% (8th highest)
> Exports growth rate (2009 – 2010): 16.1% (4th highest)
> Change in GDP (2009 – 2010): +3.6%

Exports growth in the Grand Rapids-Wyoming metropolitan area from 2009 to 2010 was 16.1%, one of the highest rates in the country. Exports make up a significant portion of the region’s GDP, which exceeded $35 billion in 2010. Among the area’s largest employers are a number of manufacturers that deal at least partially in transportation equipment, including Gentex (NASDAQ: GNTX), Magna International (NYSE: MGA), and Lacks Enterprises. Though the area’s GDP is not especially large, growth from 2009 to 2010 was above average.

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4. Greenville-Mauldin-Easley, S.C.
> Manufacturing contribution to export growth: 91.5%
> GDP (2010): $26.0 billion (19th lowest)
> Exports share of GDP: 14.9% (11th highest)
> Exports growth rate (2009 – 2010): 15.0% (11th highest)
> Change in GDP (2009 – 2010): +2.6%

The economic growth of the Greenville metropolitan area is largely being driven by manufacturing, accounting for 91.5% of export growth from 2009 to 2010. Export growth in the region is among the greatest in the country, as is the percentage of exports attributed to GDP. The largest manufacturing employers in the region are Michelin North America, BMW Manufacturing Corp, and textile and R&D company Milliken & Company. From 2009 to 2010, the metropolitan area added 560 jobs in export production.

3. Toledo, Ohio
> Manufacturing contribution to export growth: 91.6%
> GDP (2010): $27.7 billion (23rd lowest)
> Exports share of GDP: 15.0% (10th highest)
> Exports growth rate (2009 – 2010): 17.0% (3rd highest)
> Change in GDP (2009 – 2010): +2.8%

Like its neighbor, Cleveland, Toledo is one of America’s aging industrial centers that has fallen on hard times. Auto manufacturing was once the driving force behind the city’s economy, but manufacturing has long been on the decline. Today, health care has taken the spot of manufacturing as the region’s chief industry. Exports production added 810 jobs to the region between 2009 and 2010, demonstrating that manufacturing still contributes to the local economy. Exports also accounted for 81% of the area’s 2.8% increase in GDP over that period.

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2. Youngstown-Warren-Boardman, Ohio-Pa.
> Manufacturing contribution to export growth: 92.5%
> GDP (2010): $19.5 billion (7th lowest)
> Exports share of GDP: 15.0% (9th highest)
> Exports growth rate (2009 – 2010): 30.4% (the highest)
> Change in GDP (2009 – 2010): +3.8%

The exports growth rate for the Youngstown metropolitan from 2009 to 2010 is the largest in the country, at 30.4%. This is nearly twice the rate of the metro area with the second-largest growth rate. In addition to this, exports make up a particularly large share of Youngstown’s GDP. According to the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber, 13% of all jobs in the metropolitan area are in the manufacturing industry. In the decade following 2001, however, the sector lost 19,500 jobs — the most in the region. From 2009 to 2010, the Youngstown area’s GDP grew 3.8%, which is significantly more than the national increase.

1. Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis, Wis.
> Manufacturing contribution to export growth: 93.3%
> GDP (2010): $75.8 billion (38th highest)
> Exports share of GDP: 12.3% (22nd highest)
> Exports growth rate (2009 – 2010): 13.5% (16th highest)
> Change in GDP (2009 – 2010): +1.3%

Exports from the Milwaukee metropolitan statistical area increased 13.5% from 2009 to 2010 — among the highest rates in the country. Manufacturing accounted for 93.5% of this growth — the greatest amount. From June 2010 to June 2011, the region was one of the nation’s leaders in job growth, with a growth rate of 2.89%, according to the Milken Institute, thanks primarily to its manufacturing sector. According to the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce, 14% of occupations in the region are manufacturing jobs — the second-highest rate in the country. The rate for the nation is just 8.9%. However, from 2009 to 2010, Milwaukee’s GDP only increased 1.3%, compared to the national growth rate of 2.5%.

Michael B. Sauter, Charles B. Stockdale, Ashley C. Allen