Manufacturing Down South in Dixie!

By: Daniel Nardini

Once upon a time, manufacturing in the United States was primarily done in the U.S. northeast and in parts of the U.S. midwest. Things from consumer goods to industrial goods were made in Illinois (yep!), Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island (remember G.I. Joes?), and New York State. Well, some things are still made in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York State. Alas, manufacturing jobs, which pay good money, are now almost a thing of the past as so many of these jobs have been out-sourced overseas and especially to Asia (China, Indonesia, Vietnam, etc.). Strangely enough, some manufacturing jobs have been returning to the United States. But not to the states that I have mentioned. Since the 1970’s, corporations have been putting their technology, investments and factories in the U.S. southeast.

This trend has continued for well over a generation. Car, airplane and consumer goods manufacturing plants have been sprouting up from Florida all the way to Texas. Recently, the Japanese car maker Toyota has joined in the fray by setting up a manufacturing plant in the State of Mississippi. Mississippi is the single poorest state in the United States, and this is one of the reasons why Toyota chose Mississippi. Toyota is a part of a growing trend of foreign manufacturers who are heading to the U.S. southeast. They are joining their U.S. domestic corporate counterparts in setting up shop in the U.S. southeast. Foreign manufacturers have discovered what American manufacturers have known for quite awhile. The U.S. southeast has lower taxes, almost no unions, a fairly well educated and hardworking labor force, and a lower wage scale that means higher profits.

There is one other important thing. During the past 30 years, the population in the U.S. southeast increased by 17.9 percent compared to the U.S. northeast which increased only 4 percent. This means that many people from other parts of the country have moved to the U.S. southeast. Why? Obviously the movement of manufacturing jobs to the South. Second, the number of immigrants who have also moved to the southern states (especially Latinos in states like Texas and Florida) has had an impact on where manufacturing jobs are being located. Finally, a growing number of Americans want to go to warmer places to live (well, that leaves us more hearty, crazy and insane polar bears up here!). Given all of this, manufacturing jobs can now be more than anything found down South. Because of this it will attract more people to the U.S. southeast. This means that more immigrants will be heading down South as well. Up here, it means that growth will be more and more in the service sector for another decade and not as many manufacturing jobs as there were 40 years ago (unless of course they are sent overseas).

As I think about the 150th anniversary of the start of the U.S. Civil War (1861-1865), I cannot but help at noting the irony that now the South is becoming more industrial and the North less so. It gives a whole new meaning to the phrase “the South shall rise again!”

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