Too often when North Carolinians look back at both manufacturing and the economy in our state from years past, they think of the empty factories and textile mills left as distant reminders of what was once a staple industry. While one can’t help but be nostalgic over the changes that have occurred over the last 25 years, the future state of North Carolina manufacturing has the potential to far surpass the era gone by. For Winston-Salem, potential opportunities abound as advanced manufacturing practices continue to grow and be refined due to industry increases in efficiency, innovation and precision.
North Carolina and Winston-Salem have become hubs for a new brand of manufacturing, bringing with it infrastructure and high-paying engineering and computer science jobs. Certainly anyone following Winston-Salem’s economic development initiatives are familiar with companies like Dell, BE Aerospace, and of course the new addition of Caterpillar. These companies, along with countless others, have built the necessary foundation and workforce to make Winston-Salem a more than viable location for this booming industry.
Currently the manufacturing industry employs 12% of the city’s workforce, placing it slightly behind the health care industry for most local jobs. This trend exists not only in our community, with 500,000 jobs statewide credited to the manufacturing industry, accounting for nearly 20% of the state’s Gross Domestic Output. This output totals to just below 5% of the nation’s manufacturing output.
In addition to creating jobs, the advanced manufacturing industry will provide opportunities for Winston-Salem in a great number of capacities. The new jobs, unlike many of the former manufacturing positions are primarily highly paid positions. In fact the average output of a manufacturing employee rose 40% in the decade from 1999 to 2009. Now with the economy rebounding and many feeling the same as Doug Oberhelman, Caterpillar CEO, when he claims that there will be no double dip recession, and boldly states how “(Caterpillar) intends to play offense and win”, the future looks optimistic.
North Carolina’s manufacturing sector has now showed positive growth for 13 straight months and is giving no sign of slowing down. Schools like Forsyth Tech have instituted phenomenal programs readying the local workforce for this complex yet exciting and growing industry. While Caterpillar will continue to stand as a huge achievement for advanced manufacturing in Winston-Salem, we at Winston-Salem Business Inc.are more than confident that it won’t be the last major company to make Winston-Salem its home.