Monday, August 28, 2017

Baltimore is a manufacturing desert

The Baltimore Business Journal's latest list of the area's largest manufacturing employers is quite revealing: For those who still nourish the memory of Baltimore as an industrial city and for those who think that new technologies will bring a resurgence of "Made in Baltimore".
Manufacturing today: A hall full of robots at Blueprint Robotics Baltimore

Ranked by (local) employees the by far largest employer is the Johns Hopkins university and hospital system with nearly 50,000 employees, followed by the University of MD Medical System (22,500). One manufacturer, Northrop Grumman with 10,400 employees sits on a respectable fifth place but what follows is a long maker desert all the way down to rank 16 with Under Armour an its 3,700 local employees. At rank 29 another company that still makes something: The McCormick spice company (2,500 employees). Then it is all services again until rank 48 with Baltimore's foremost baker, H&S 1575 employees). Other companies that make tangible products include Whiting Turner (#61, 1,000 employees), Nestle Dreyer (#72, 735 employees), Domino Sugars (#89, 485 employees) and FritoLay on rank #99. The list doesn't become much more impressive if one expands it to the full state as in this one posted by the State Department of Commerce:
Major Manufacturing Employers in Maryland:
- Northrop Grumman 10,365 Electronic systems Lockheed Martin 3,255 Aerospace and electronics
MedImmune/Astra Zeneca 2,920 Pharmaceuticals
W. L. Gore & Associates 2,405, GORE-TEX® products
McCormick & Company 1,900 Food flavorings
Under Armour 1,855 Sports apparel
BD Diagnostics 1,580 Medical equipment
H&S Bakery 1,575 Commercial food products
Perdue Farms 1,500 Poultry processing
Volvo Powertrain 1,300 Diesel engines and transmissions Note:
Numbers are rounded. Source: Maryland Department of Commerce, July 2017. 
With just 103,000 employees Maryland's  manufacturing sector represents a measly 3.2% of the state's overall employment which is well below the national average of 8%, which in turn pales in comparison to Germany with its 27%. That country's current manufacturing exceeds the US manufacturing levels at the height of manufacturing employment in the 1970s.
Maryland manufacturing in 50 years: From 25% to 3.8%

Among the US States (2015 data) Indiana has the highest percentage of employment in manufacturing (17.1%) followed by Wiscconsin. The taillight is DC with just 0.1% manufacturing employment.

At the height of its manufacturing prowess, around 1950, Maryland employed 25% of the workforce in manufacturing and made that sector the then strongest one.
Bethlehem Steel in its heydays: Hard work, good pay
Maryland's largest employment sector by far is the Government with about 20% of the entire workforce, beyond that it has three employment pillars which combined make up almost half of all employment per the US Bureau of Labor StatisticsTrade, Transportation and UtilitiesProfessional Business Services and Education and Health Services, each employing about 470 million people or around 15%. Leisure, construction and financial services are each stronger than manufacturing.

One can reasonably argue that any country needs to make stuff to remain resilient in crisis and a viable player in the international arena; just as no country should import all energy, all agriculture products or all IT. A certain diversification is desirable for resilience, for influence in politics, self control and even for sustainability. But if the Baltimore area is trying to find a strong sector for its unemployed and impoverished youth, it likely won't be in manufacturing.

Klaus Philipsen, FAIA

Interesting facts about manufacturing published by the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM)
Manufacturing in % of total employment across America: Indiana leads

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