Southern Colorado manufacturing growing

Colorado Springs manufacturing represents about 4.4 percent of all jobs in the area –  and 40 percent of them are considered high-tech.

After a decade of losing manufacturing jobs, Colorado Springs saw a .5 percent employment growth in the fourth quarter of 2010.

However, Pueblo is the real manufacturing come-back-kid, with 9.1 percent manufacturing growth during the same period.

The numbers were revealed in Brookings Institute report,  “Locating American Manufacturing: Trends in the Geography of Production,”  released Wednesday.

The report, which offers an interactive website, said it is important for industry analysts to study the future of manufacturing in America, as well as research where the jobs are located.

Geographic considerations are central to whether the slow growth of U.S. manufacturing jobs during the last two years signals a renaissance of American manufacturing or merely a temporary respite from long-term decline, the report said.

About two-thirds of American metropolitan areas show strong evidence of clustering, falling into one of six broad groups: computers and electronics, transportation equipment, low-wage manufacturing, chemicals, machinery, and food.

Colorado Springs specializes – defined in the report as the share of  jobs in a specific area divided by the nationwide share – in computer and electronics manufacturing. Pueblo’s specialty is primary metals and machinery.

The Springs experienced a boom in manufacturing with 100 percent growth from 1980 to 2000. Between 2000 and 2010, however,  it lost 50 percent of manufacturing positions. Pueblo lost 19 percent of its manufacturing jobs from 1980 to 2000 and then 14 percent from 2000 to 2010.

The report, which records activity up to 2010, may not tell the current story. At a manufacturing forum this month, local manufacturers painted a picture of growth.

Tom Neppl, owner and CEO of Springs Fabrication, said he’s hired 20 to 30 people in the last year.

“I don’t see a big slow down in the near future,” he said.

Neppl was among 100 local manufacturers who spoke May 4 to local educators and workforce development specialists about the manufacturing industry’s workforce needs.

According to the Brookings report, plant size matters for the health of American manufacturing because small and medium-sized manufacturers are responsible for designing and producing an increasing amount of the content of manufactured goods.

In Colorado Springs, the average plant employs 40 people – that mirrors the national average. In Pueblo, plants are a little bigger with 63 employees. Both cities’ manufacturing jobs pay above the city average. In Colorado Springs, folks working in manufacturing make between $69,535 and $91,483 if they have a high-tech manufacturing job compared to $46,302 average wage of Colorado Springs.

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper has commissioned a manufacturing task force to work on six manufacturing objectives: make the state business friendly; recruit businesses; increase access to capital; market the state; educate and train the workforce; and cultivate innovation.

Barry Baum, a member of the Greater Colorado Springs Chamber and EDC local industry council, said manufacturers and educators are working on a number of programs to grow the southern Colorado manufacturing industry. Colorado Springs and Pueblo manufactures have joined to work with Pueblo and Pikes Peak Community Colleges to share resources and training.

“We are finally moving the needle in the right direction to support manufacturing,” Baum said.

One Response to Southern Colorado manufacturing growing

  1. These are amazing signs, but we still got to be careful though because China is still taking manufacturing jobs, even though the economy is picking up, companies are looking for ways to save We will never be out of the pain yet in this industry.

    Scott Sleight
    May 12, 2012 at 9:09 am