The Top 25

Dec. 21, 2004
1. Chicago, Ill. With six different industries that each employ more than 48,000 workers, Chicago is the epitome of a city that has the critical mass coveted today by world-class manufacturers. Its rail, truck, and air networks are a large plus for distribution. It's also the candy capital of the U.S. with companies such as Tootsie Roll Industries Inc., E.J. Brach Corp., and Fannie May Candies. Major industries: industrial machines, fabricated metals, electronics. 2. Houston, Tex. There's more than oil in Houston's economy today. In fact, industrial machinery and equipment combined for 36% of the region's net manufacturing-jobs growth this decade. Compaq Computer Corp. employs almost as many as the two largest oil companies combined. Still, more than half the region's jobs are tied to petrochemicals and oil. Major industries: petrochemicals, oil and gas, industrial machinery and equipment. 3. Detroit, Mich. Long known as the auto capital of the U.S., Detroit has, in recent years, become a mecca for automotive R&D and design centers. It's also becoming the preferred headquarters site for foreign firms that supply the automotive industry. Its unemployment rate dropped to an all-time low of 2.8% last November. Major industries: autos, metalworking, machinery. 4. San Jose, Calif. In the last decade, the top 100 companies in the Silicon Valley have tripled their sales and increased their profits sixfold. One reason: employee productivity. The value-added per employee in the region has increased 6% annually in the 1990s, and R&D employment in the area is three times the national average. Major industries: electronics, semiconductors, computer software. 5. Dallas, Tex. The region has more than half of the state's high-tech jobs thanks to the large concentration of telecommunications companies located there. And that sector is expected to add 40,000 more jobs in the next 10 years. It's also a great hub for distribution because of its Southwest location and world-class airport. Major industries: telecommunications, electronics, industrial machinery. 6. Boston, Mass. The home of global manufacturing giants such as Gillette Co., Polaroid Corp., and Raytheon Co., Greater Boston also nurtures thousands of small and medium-sized manufacturing firms, many of which have commercialized new technology developed at the area's research institutions. The state has made doing business easier with workers' compensation reform, farsighted brownfields legislation, and a single sales factor corporate tax apportionment formula. Main industries: telecommunications, medical devices, software. 7. Atlanta, Ga. With both urban and rural areas among its 20 counties, greater Atlanta offers manufacturers a wide range of well-priced, ready-to-go sites for expansion and relocation. It's the home of the world's largest cable manufacturing plant as well as the final assembly site of Lockheed Martin Corp.'s F-22 fighter plane. Hartsfield International Airport gives global manufacturers an edge, with nonstop service to 25 foreign capitals. Main industries: high tech, aerospace. 8. Kokomo, Ind. Kokomo's biggest manufacturers changed hands last year, with Chrysler becoming DaimlerChrysler AG and Delco Electronics -- a division of General Motors Corp. -- becoming Delphi Delco Electronics & Systems, preparing for a spinoff this summer. A number of training initiatives are underway to supply Kokomo's growing manufacturing sector with labor. Major industries: autos, auto components. 9. Phoenix, Ariz. Phoenix has no problem attracting the much-sought-after high-tech worker to its sunny climes -- thus the enormous presence of such industry leaders as Motorola Inc., AlliedSignal Inc., Intel Corp., and Honeywell Inc. A statewide initiative has identified and organized Arizona's major industries into cluster organizations, which meet regularly to work on shared issues. Main industries: high-tech electronics, aerospace, biotech, software. 10. St. Louis, Mo. In spite of massive cutbacks in defense spending during the last decade, manufacturing employment remains high in St. Louis. Some 5,000 former McDonnell Douglas Corp. employees have become entrepreneurs -- many opening small manufacturing companies -- thanks to the public-private Defense Adjustment Project. Other manufacturers such as SmithKline Beecham Corp. and Ball-Foster Glass Container Co. LLC continue to expand their presence in the region. Major industries: aerospace, auto, chemical. 11. Philadelphia, Pa. Philadelphia has an exceptionally strong academic community from which area manufacturers draw talent and innovation, including the Wharton School, one of the U.S.' premier business schools. With an already solid manufacturing base, Philadelphia will soon be home to the Kvaerner shipbuilding works, the nation's first private shipbuilding operation in 50 years. Main industries: chemicals, pharmaceuticals, precision manufacturing. 12. Albuquerque, N. Mex. Albuquerque's wealth of research-and-development resources, including the Sandia National Laboratories and the Air Force Research Laboratory, spur innovation and entrepreneurship throughout the region. Still, the growing high-tech sector doesn't go hungry for employees, as private industry and the education community have joined hands to expand the area's technically competent workforce. Main industries: defense, semiconductors. 13. Austin, Tex. As Austin-San Marcos' three core industries -- electronics, semiconductors, and computers and related products -- continue to grow, more and more suppliers are flocking to the area to share in the prosperity. The influx not only has kept the economy roaring, but has also sparked urban redevelopment as software and new media companies seek homes at the heart of downtown. Main industries: electronics, semiconductors, computer software. 14. Lake Charles, La. Despite recent lower prices for oil, petrochemical companies and major suppliers to the oil industry continue to invest heavily in Lake Charles, drawn by its location advantages and a range of state incentives that reward expansion and relocation. Newest among these is Global Industries Ltd., which manufactures giant spools that can lay down pipeline in the Gulf in a matter of hours. Main industries: chemicals, oil, industrial construction. 15. Portland, Oreg. Here's proof that urban sprawl initiatives don't squelch economic growth: Portland, the city with the nation's most talked-about restrictions on sprawl, is also one in which both newer manufacturers such as Nike Inc. and older ones such as Freightliner Corp. thrive. The high-tech/electronics sector continues to grow rapidly; even with the downturn in semiconductors, the area has about 5,000 more jobs in this sector than in the early '90s. Main industries: electronics, high tech, primary and secondary metals, paper and wood. 16. Elkhart, Ind. As industrial growth continues, Elkhart's civic and business leaders are working on improving the community's urban infrastructure and enhancing regional collaboration. Area companies continue to expand, aided by public officials who have revamped planning and zoning requirements to make the community even more user-friendly for business. Main industries: recreational vehicles, manufactured homes. 17. Cleveland, Ohio With major public-private investments in the area's sports, cultural, and visitor infrastructure, this long-time manufacturing hub also has become a popular visitors' destination. Civic leaders have become creative in using public funds on behalf of private enterprise, and the city is aggressively accumulating urban lots for use as business parks. Main industries: steel and allied products, plastics and chemicals, autos. 18. Baton Rouge, La. Cradled by the Mississippi River, Baton Rouge is an ideal location for the petroleum and chemical companies that dominate its manufacturing landscape. Business and civic leaders have just completed Vision 2020, a long-range plan to retain these industries as well as diversify the economy. Main industries: petroleum, chemicals. 19. Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minn. The Twin Cities area boasts an all-star cast of manufacturers, including Honeywell Inc., 3M Co., and General Mills Inc.; altogether, 14 of the largest Fortune 500 companies are headquartered there. In recent years, the state government has been whittling down the tax bite on manufacturers, as well as conducting a reform of workers' compensation. Main industries: super computers, electronics, medical instruments. 20. Boise, Idaho Regional cooperation is one of the main components of Boise's ongoing success, as area leaders gather frequently to address key issues such as workforce development. Manufacturers and other enterprises continue to profit from bargain-basement business costs, including natural-gas rates that have actually dropped over the years. Main industries: electronic components, semiconductors, food processing. 21. Lexington, Ky. Manufacturing is flourishing in Kentucky Bluegrass country, boosted enormously by Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky Inc.'s arrival in 1988. New companies are moving to the area, drawn by both the quality of life and the opportunity to supply Toyota. While industrial development isn't permitted outside the city, civic leaders are creating a new business park inside the city to make land available at reasonable rates. Main industries: autos, computer printers, equine, tobacco. 22. New York, N.Y. While greater New York is headquarters to IBM Corp., General Electric Co., Texaco Inc., and other global giants, the area's 1 million manufacturing employees are concentrated in industries that complement New York's unique status as a world center for finance, media, entertainment, and fashion. Following a regional planning initiative, the area is making the first new investments in its transit system in 60 years. Main industries: apparel and fashion, printing and publishing, food processing. 23. Janesville-Beloit, Wis. As local companies continue to thrive, leaders from Janesville's public and private sectors have been turning their attention to a host of initiatives that will make the manufacturing climate even better. Among these is an improvement to workers' compensation, with the development of a universal return-to-work form and new working relationships between area manufacturers and caregivers. Main industries: autos and trucks, auto components. 24. Grand Rapids, Mich. Grand Rapids' manufacturing base continues to be strengthened by an influx of foreign companies, many relocating to supply the region's auto industry. More than 40 foreign manufacturers are now situated in the Grand Rapids area, wooed by an aggressive international marketing program conducted by business leaders for more than a decade. Main industries: office furniture, auto components, fabricated metals, food processing. 25. Oakland, Calif. Manufacturing has an easy go of it in Oakland, the only place in the U.S. where the major means of transportation -- freeway, rail, air, and water -- come together in one place. Oakland's city government has reorganized to make the business environment even more attractive, merging its city planning and economic development departments. Main industries: international trade, agriculture and food processing, biomedical, environmental engineering.

Sponsored Recommendations

Voice your opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of IndustryWeek, create an account today!