Light Manufacturing is an Economic Heavy Hitter | Trade and Industry Development

Light Manufacturing is an Economic Heavy Hitter

May 15, 2015 | By: Jennifer Alten

Throughout the country, light manufacturing is an economic heavy hitter. No matter the sector they’re in, manufacturing-related operations are responsible for countless jobs and economic success in their region. Savvy economic developers from the town- to state-level are focusing their energy and attention on helping manufacturers thrive.

Molex and Kimberly Clark are two thriving manufacturers located in the Maumelle Industrial Park in Maumelle, Arkansas.
Maumelle Industrial Park, Maumelle, Arkansas

Just northwest of Little Rock, Maumelle is one of the fast-growing cities in Arkansas – and the Maumelle Industrial Park is a one of the key drivers.

“With I-1 zoning for light manufacturing and easy access to Interstate 40, the industrial park boasts of long-term relationships with an impressive roster of companies. For example, Kimberly Clark Corporation produces all the Huggies Baby Wipes for North America and has been in Maumelle for more than 20 years,” said Judy Keller, director of community & economic development at the City of Maumelle.

Other companies include Molex, a leading provider of electronic components, the city’s largest employer with more than 1,000 jobs. Molex’s LRC Business Unit manufactures electronic and telecommunications connectors for data and telecommunications equipment and its Global Integrated Products Division supplies advanced electronic components.

Maumelle Industrial Park also is home of BEI, Precision Systems and Space Company, a manufacturer of optical shaft angle encoders and accelerometers for military applications, along with distribution and logistics operations for companies such as Ace Hardware, Dillard’s, PepsiCo, Medline Industries and Fresenius Medical Care North America.

Redlands, California's business-friendly environment attracts both mainstream and specialty manufacturing operations such as La-Z-Boy Furniture.
City of Redlands, California

Nestled in San Bernardino County, California, Redlands has a strong, diversified manufacturing base and a strong economic climate with a 3.9 percent unemployment rate.

“We’re creating an environment where businesses can be successful, regardless of industry by providing resources that help with bottom line, including recruiting and training. Whether a company is in the medical industry, food and beverage, furniture or music, Redland is attractive to manufacturers,” said Mike Nelson, economic development manager at the City of Redlands.

One local manufacturer is La-Z-Boy. Since 1966, the furniture manufacturer has been producing approximately 1,000 recliners and reclining sofas a day in its 189,000 square-foot facility.  Another is Hangar 24, an award‐wining craft brewery that has grown from a small startup to a major producer and distributor of craft beer in seven years.

Other manufacturers include Colony Products, a large, West Coast supplier of food‐grade oils, Plastics Plus Technology, which creates injection-molded products and Nordstrand Guitars, a manufacturer of custom basses and guitars.

The Fulton Companies manufacturers heat transfer equipment at its headquarters and manufacturing facility on Oswego County, New York.
Oswego County, New York

Oswego County has a well-established light manufacturing cluster, specifically in metal fabrication, with nearly 40 specialized machine shops and fabricators.

“Oswego County offers a great opportunity to businesses that can fill a niche within this sector or can benefit from locating near this cluster, including advanced manufacturers, suppliers and R&D firms,” said Evelyn LiVoti, marketing and development manager at Operation Oswego County, Inc.

This strength is due to the collaborations between manufacturers within the cluster. Many of the existing Oswego County businesses attribute their success to the availability of a skilled and educated workforce in metal manufacturing, a robust supply chain and a well-connected multimodal logistics network within hours of every major Northeast market.

The Fulton Companies, a leader in complex heat transfer equipment for commercial and industrial applications, is one example of a company thriving in the area. In 2012, Fulton completed a major expansion at its headquarters, which included 82,000 square feet of additional manufacturing space.

Construction of a Tomahawk cruise missile at Raytheon’s facility in Tuscan, Arizona. Photo courtesy of Raytheon.

Arizona is home to over 4,500 manufacturers, many of which are second- and third-tier suppliers. The state’s strategic clusters include aerospace & defense, optics, semiconductors, bioscience and advanced business services, along with complementary sectors such as renewable energy, automotive and information technology.

Examples of successful manufactures abound. In Mesa, Boeing has 5,000 workers who manufacture and assemble the Apache helicopter. Intel Corp. employs nearly 11,000 at its semiconductor manufacturing facilities across Greater Phoenix and W.L. Gore has 2,500 workers at its medical device manufacturing facility in Flagstaff.

“Arizona provides companies access to world-class talent, a strategic location and pro-business policies,” said Joseph Valdez, director of communications and community affairs at the Arizona Commerce Authority. “Businesses are drawn to our young, highly skilled manufacturing workforce, with specializations in advanced manufacturing, advanced business services and IT.”

Valdez added, “Arizona’s ongoing commitment to improving the business environment through streamlined regulations and a simplified tax system has resulted in corporate and individual income tax rates that are among the lowest in the nation.”

Greenwood, South Carolina, is home to the manufacturing operations of many well-known companies, including Fujifilm and Capsugel, the leading provider of empty, two-piece hard capsules.
Greenwood, South Carolina 

Ideally situated close to all major Southern markets, it’s not surprising that manufacturing makes up 22 percent of Greenwood, South Carolina’s labor force. Greenwood has direct rail access to the Port of Charleston and Port of Savannah, along with competitive labor rates and a low cost of living.

“Greenwood has many diverse light manufacturing industries that cover a spectrum of markets including food processing, pharmaceuticals and consumer goods,” said Heather Simmons Jones, CEO of the Greenwood Partnership Alliance.

One of the area’s many well-known companies include Fujifilm Manufacturing with five state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities for the production of QuickSnap recyclable cameras, inkjet photographic paper, and digital printing plates. Another is Capsugel, the world’s leading provider of empty, two-piece hard capsules and an innovator of drug delivery systems, along with Greenwood Mills, a 125-year-old, family-owned company that produces woven fabrics. In addition, Colgate-Palmolive just announced plans for a facility that will produce Softsoap liquid hand soap and Mennen Speed Stick deodorant.

China-based TDC Cutting Tools is locating the headquarters for Greenfield Industries, its international division, in Oconee County, South Carolina.
Oconee County, South Carolina

Home to over 60 industrial-related companies, Oconee County, in the northwest corner of South Carolina boasts a labor pool of over 632,000 people.

“We’re coming off a record year. In 2014, we saw tremendous growth in both job creation and capital investment,” said Richard K. Blackwell, SCCED, executive director of the Oconee Economic Alliance. “The area offers companies a pro-business population with a strong work ethic and an unmatched quality of life with great proximity to Clemson University.”

The automotive sector is driving much of the growth, thanks to companies like BMW, Michelin and ZF that are nearby. A notable success is U.S. Engine Valve, a joint venture between Eaton and Nittan Valve Company. The company is investing nearly $34 million in a 38,000 square-foot expansion, which includes new valve machining equipment in its Westminster facility, adding 125 additional jobs.

Another success is Greenfield Industries, which is the new international headquarters and consolidated manufacturing for China-based TDC Cutting Tools.

Electric Vehicles International (EVI) manufactures battery electric vehicles and range extended electric vehicles in Stockton, California.
Stockton, California

In north-central California, Stockton is a city of over 300,000 in San Joaquin County. With 14 fully improved industrial parks with most having access to rail, Stockton is an ideal location for manufacturers. The area is strategically positioned for quick, cost effective distribution of manufactured products to major West Coast, Pacific Rim and global markets.

“There are a variety of light manufacturing operations taking place in Stockton ranging from aerospace technology, construction materials, medical devices, food processing and consumer goods and electric vehicles,” said Janice Miller, deputy director of the economic development department at the City of Stockton. “Our cluster of light manufacturers provides an opportunity for networking and expansion of local supplier capacity.”

For more than 50 years, Applied Aerospace Structures has thrived in the area, designing and fabricating structural assemblies for the aerospace industry. Other light manufacturing companies include Duraflame, with its headquarters and western manufacturing facility in Stockton, and Electric Vehicles International (EVI), a manufacturer of alternative energy vehicles.

U.S. Engine Valve, a joint venture between Eaton and Nittan Valve Company, recently invested in a $34 million expansion in Oconee County, South Carolina.
North Eastern Strategic Alliance, South Carolina

The North Eastern Strategic Alliance (NESA) is a regional economic development organization that serves a nine-county region in the northeast corner of South Carolina. The region is home to industries including aerospace, agribusiness, call centers, data centers, distribution and logistics, food processing and plastics along with general manufacturing.

“Not only does our region offer a preponderance of certified sites and spec buildings, but a thriving business environment as well as an abundance of incentives, workforce training programs and available utilities,” said Matt McColl, marketing director of NESA.

German manufacturer BauschLinnemann North America invested more than $8 million to construct a new production facility in Myrtle Beach. The company, which produces surfaces and edge bandings for furniture makers, established its North American headquarters in NESA’s Horry County. Other light manufacturing companies in the area include PTR Industries, Birdsong Peanut Processing, Screwmatics of South Carolina and Precision Southeast.

About the Author