Manufacturing jobs below many cities, but holding steady

Baltimore still 18th of 20 urban areas, according to 1998 study

November 12, 1999|By Kristine Henry | Kristine Henry,SUN STAFF

Baltimore still ranks lower than most other cities surveyed by the Greater Baltimore Alliance when it comes to manufacturing jobs, although for the most part the area held steady throughout the past year, according to a study released yesterday.

"There is no way the U.S. economy can continue to flourish and provide a good quality of life if not for manufacturing jobs," Ioanna Morfessis, chief executive officer of the GBA, said at a Regional Manufacturing Institute meeting yesterday at the Holiday Inn in Timonium in updating figures from the GBA's July 1998 State of the Region report.

Last year's report, produced in conjunction with the Greater Baltimore Committee, ranked the Baltimore region's economy vs. those of 19 other cities that were deemed to represent a diverse sample.

In 1998 Baltimore remained 18th in terms of manufacturing employment at 8.4 percent, down from 8.6 percent in 1997. The Greenville-Spartanburg region, in South Carolina, remained at the top of the list at 25.9 percent.

Other numbers released yesterday show the Baltimore area ranked 15th in total manufacturing employment with 100,000 workers.

Additionally, the growth of manufacturing companies with fewer than 100 people grew 9.7 percent -- putting Baltimore in 15th place -- while the number of larger manufacturing companies declined 1.6 percent, with Baltimore ranking 16th.

Anirban Basu, senior economist with RESI, an economics and consulting institute at Towson University, said that, although the area's manufacturing base has been declining, it was in a good position to attract new factories.

"Baltimore has been transitioning toward a service-oriented economy for several decades; however, one should not conclude that the future of manufacturing in the Baltimore area is bleak," Basu said in an interview.

"The same factors that have made the Baltimore area a hub for distributors should help with the location of new manufacturing plants to Baltimore. These include Baltimore's proximity to major consumer markets, as well as its globally oriented transportation infrastructure."

For example, Basu pointed to the area's recent coup of persuading General Motors Corp. to locate its new Allison Transmission plant in White Marsh.

The state is spending more than $14 million on the Allison plant, an amount that includes road work and tax incentives.

The plant, the state's first new heavy-manufacturing facility in nearly three decades, is expected to employ more than 400 workers, although many of them could come from GM's van assembly plant in Baltimore. The future of that plant, which employs nearly 3,000 workers, is unclear.

"The key [to creating more manufacturing jobs] from a development perspective will be to assemble sufficiently large and contiguous plots of land zoned for industrial uses," Basu said, "and efforts to create a work force that possesses the technical skills manufacturers of the future will seek."

Top cities

Here's how Baltimore compared with the top five cities ranked by manufacturing jobs as a percent of nonfarm employment in 1998

Greenville-Spartanburg 25.9%

Cleveland 19.3%

Charlotte 18.2%

Seattle 16.9%

Minneapolis 16.8%

Baltimore 8.4%

U.S. average 14.9%

Source: Greater Baltimore Alliance

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