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Baby Bust in Manufacturing

Biz Spotlight – ManufacturingBiz Spotlight – Manufacturing

A decrease in the number of new manufacturing plants across the country has brought down the overall number of factories in the U.S. during the last decade, according to Manufacturers Alliance/ MAPI, an Arlington, Va., research firm.

There were about 340,000 plants in the country in 2004, a 9% decrease from 375,000 in 1998. During 1998, the rate of new-plant creation was above 3%. It has been dropping since and last year hit 2.4%. Factory closings remained at 3.5%.

Meanwhile, the number of manufacturing companies in New Jersey has increased slightly from 10,680 in 2002 to 11,067 in 2006, according to Manufacturers News, an Evanston, Ill.-based publisher. Still, New Jersey has lost 21,423 manufacturing jobs since 2002, when some 501,000 people were employed in the industry.

Lack of entrepreneurship is preventing growth in U.S. manufacturing, says Daniel J. Meckstroth, chief economist at Manufacturers Alliance.

“Look around the world,” he says. “There are more attractive opportunities elsewhere. A lot of companies would rather put their money abroad. Less small entrepreneurs are getting into [U.S.] manufacturing than in the past.”

Despite the seemingly bleak outlook, U.S. manufacturers are confident about their future, says Meckstroth. “Business has picked up. Last year, manufacturing grew at 3.8% after inflation. It’ll be around 3.5% this year,” he says.

—Thomas Gaudio

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