Ever since the Industrial Revolution, manufacturing has been a key industry in America. Factories started with textiles, but were soon producing everything from furnaces to clocks to sewing machines.
Over time, cities along what was then called the “manufacturing belt” struggled to keep up with new economic and social conditions, declining into what is now known as the “rust belt.” Cities like Detroit, Chicago, and Buffalo were once manufacturing giants, but lost their status due to a variety of factors — including the then-rising popularity of offshoring, which is now falling out of use again.
But manufacturing hasn’t left America — it’s just changed! While Detroit may not be the center of American automotive manufacturing that it once was, there are still plenty of American cities whose manufacturing industries are thriving.
These days, LA is for more than just Hollywood types! In fact, Los Angeles has more employees in the manufacturing sector than any other US city — and those numbers are still growing. These 500,000 manufacturing employees work in a variety of fields, from aerospace to biomedical and beyond.
Also impressive is the modern industrial rise of New York. Together with the New Jersey metropolitan area, manufacturers employ 368,000 people — but in more small, entrepreneurial businesses than in many other cities. For example, many New York manufacturers work in distilleries, woodworking, and tech manufacturing.
Not far behind is Houston, which boasts over 257,000 manufacturing jobs. Houston is part of the “energy belt,” named for the area’s strong involvement in refining and petrochemicals. Houston is often called the leader of the energy-driven revival of US manufacturing. In fact, the city ranks third in manufacturing job concentration in the United States.
Speaking of automotive manufacturing, central Tennessee is benefiting from the presence of Nissan and Bridgestone plants, as well as a number of appliance manufacturing plants. Overall, Tennessee employs just over 313,000 people in manufacturing, according to the Dun and Bradstreet B2B article, and industry insiders expect that number to rise. In fact, the Nashville area has seen manufacturing employment jump by nearly a quarter since 2009, according to the New Geography article.
The manufacturing industry is changing — but that isn’t necessarily a bad sign. The cities that play host to plants may be changing, but manufacturing remains a key part of America’s economy and industry.