Macon Chronicle-Herald - Macon, MO
  • Manufacturing still key to economic base

  • Significant segment of workforce making products shipped across United States, world.
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  • Band uniforms for high schools and major colleges. Fishing reels used by professional anglers. Shock absorbers. Robes worn by U.S. athletes at the London Olympics. Industrial cables used in products that venture to outer space. T-shirts commemorating the Cardinals' 2011 World Series title. Parts used in aircraft assembled around the world.
    All products of labor long since gone from the United States, memories from an evaporating manufacturing base?
    Nope. Try items being manufactured in your backyard.
    While a common refrain nationally is the United States' manufacturing base has eroded, that jobs are gone and never coming back, a significant piece of the northern Missouri economy continues to thrive upon these jobs and people around the globe depend on the hidden gems produced here in northern Missouri. (See page A11 of today's Macon Chronicle-Herald for "Northern Missouri's Hidden Gems")
    During the last decade, the number of Americans employed in manufacturing jobs tumbled from around 15.5 million in 2002 to a low of just more than 11 million in late 2009 during the most recent economic recession, according to the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics.
    Since then, however, manufacturing jobs have steadied and seen gains, recently topping more than 12 million in the U.S.
    And through those difficult times, northern Missouri's manufactures have continued to account for a significant percentage of both the overall workforce and region's economy.
    The reasons they've stayed while so many others have sought greener pastures overseas are numerous, according to the region's economic development leaders, including loyalty, ties to agriculture, and access to highways, waterways and rails found here in the nation's midsection.
    Macon County is the crossroads to two major highways, allowing an appealing location for manufacturing. "The county and city helps funding with Missouri Customized Training for workers," Macon Economic Development Director Denise Bennett said.
    Not to mention the fact Midwesterners have a reputation and live up to their billing.
    "The work ethic is good in rural America," said Jerry Boling, operation manager of Ardent Reel in Macon, Mo. "There is a workforce in our area who want to work, and work while they are at work."
    A study of eight counties - Adair, Audrain, Cooper, Linn, Livingston, Macon, Ralls and Randolph - and statistics compiled by the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center showed 6,892 people employed by one of the 177 "firms" classified as manufacturers. That figure represents about 18 percent of the workforce engaged in private industry.
    According to MERIC (Missouri Economic Research and Information Center), out of the 3,054 employees in Macon County there are 491 people who work in manufacturing positions. The average wage for manufacturing jobs in Macon County is $17,549.203.
    Those workers represent a significant chunk of the region's economy beyond their employment status, taking home more than $256 million in wages, or nearly a quarter of the private industry payroll total.
    Page 2 of 2 - Donna Thomas, Human Resources with ConAgra said that the support from Macon County has allowed their company great employees, good wages and benefits made in a safe working environment that produces wholesome foods at reasonable price. ConAgra's employees makes up a large percentage of the 16.08 percent of workers in the county.
    And as the work continues across the region, products continue to be shipped to points across the world, moving the "Made in Missouri" stamp to places like China, Brazil, South Africa and beyond.
    "People think America does not manufacture in the foreign market, but we do," said Sebastian Heintz, CEO of Zenith Aircraft Company in Mexico, Mo. "Some local companies right here profit off of exporting to foreign countries, which is neat."
    Bennett said, "Macon County offers a great deal of incentives to businesses who are interested in coming to our area. The quality of life is exceptional, tax rates are lower than most surrounding counties, and the city and county provides tax abatements for new manufacturing companies. We feel that Macon County has a lot to offer."
    By the numbers
    Key figures to know about northern Mo. manufacturing:
    •1917 is the first year that FM Stamper, now ConAgra, started their business in Macon.
    •62 employees work at Economy Products.
    •15 million gallons was the annual production capacity for Poets first year in 2000.
    •350 people are employed at ConAgra in Macon.

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