At the national level, U.S. manufacturing has suffered from slow productivity, wage, and job growth for decades. At the regional level, industrial decline has hollowed out once-thriving industrial cities. Places with a legacy of manufacturing have often faced population losses, infrastructure decay, and even declines in public health. At the firm level, U.S. manufacturers that have survived these challenges are often – as MIT’s Production in the Innovation Economy study put it – “home alone.” How can the federal government’s investments in revitalizing U.S. manufacturing support the growth of high-performing manufacturing regions?
In this study, we examine U.S. regions that have experienced high levels of manufacturing growth since 2000. Firms in these high-performing manufacturing regions continued to grow even during a period of national industrial decline. Data across more than 20 variables measuring the regional manufacturing economy suggest that the high-performing regions do not follow a single pattern. They come from nearly every part of the country. Some stand out for regional innovation; others have high levels of unionization and few college graduates; still others appear to rely on exports or defense contracts. But there are common lessons from these diverse places.