Made In The USA
Some manufacturers gravitate toward international markets. Not Red Brick Brewing Co., says Robert Fabbrini, general manager of the Atlanta-based brewery. For 20 years, Red Brick enjoyed considerable success serving the Southeastern market with its selection of craft beers. Then an Italian distributor contacted the brewery in 2013 and the status quo was significantly altered. “Our eyes were opened to the possibilities,” Fabbrini says, citing the 50-percent jump in American craft beer exports in 2012. Since Red Brick’s first international shipment left the Port of Savannah for Torino, Italy, in July 2013, exportation has been a major focus for the brewery.
Red Brick’s location streamlines the transportation process, according to Fabbrini. Not only does Georgia house the Port of Savannah—the busiest container port in the Southeast—the state is home to the bustling Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, as well as an extensive rail network. “[Conducting] international business from Georgia is easy,” Fabbrini says.
Tom Croteau, deputy commissioner of Global Commerce for the Georgia Department of Economic Development, agrees that the Peach State’s transportation infrastructure is a competitive advantage. The Southeast’s low unionization rates and reduced operating costs are other draws, he adds. What truly gives Georgia manufacturers an edge over the competition, however, is the state’s lack of sales tax on energy, Croteau says. “A few years ago, we eliminated the tax on both electricity and natural gas, and it’s one of the reasons we see [so many] manufacturers looking at Georgia.”
In addition to Georgia, below are five other states manufacturers are eyeing.
Long heralded for its proficiency in steel manufacturing, Alabama is also a top state for automotive and aerospace manufacturing. Steve Sewell, executive vice president of the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama, says there’s a good reason for this: Alabamian officials place a strong emphasis on manufacturing.
“We’re well aware of manufacturing’s significance to our economy and we’re interested in sustaining that,” he says. Alabama’s manufacturing sector got a major boost in 2013 when Airbus broke ground on its $600-million factory in Mobile—the aircraft manufacturer’s first facility on U.S. soil. Assembly of narrow-body aircraft will take place at the plant, which is slated to open later this year; JetBlue Airways will acquire the first A321 in mid-2016. “It’s very exciting for Alabama,” Sewell says.
Manufacturers in the Hoosier State benefit from less regulation, as well as “fiscal predictability,” thanks to the state’s balanced budget, says Victor Smith, the Indiana Economic Development Corp.’s secretary of Commerce. After enacting the largest personal income tax cut in Indiana’s history, state regulators recently reduced Indiana’s corporate income tax rate schedule. Such breaks, Smith says, add up to big benefits for Indiana manufacturers—a group that includes global giants Applied Instruments, Hill-Rom and Franklin Electric. The Midwestern work ethic has also played a role in the state’s manufacturing success, according to Smith, who says Indiana is a state of builders who are committed to building a healthy business climate. “We never settle for ordinary or middle-of-the-pack.”
In addition to boasting a world-class agricultural sector, the Hawkeye State is also a leader in advanced manufacturing, maintains Iowa Economic Development Authority Director Debi Durham. Strengthening these industries is Iowa’s focus on eliminating barriers to success for manufacturers, Durham says.
“We’re constantly working with our companies and communities to identify issues that might affect our employers so we can work together to solve them.” One manifestation of this is the recently passed Iowa Apprenticeship and Job Training Act, which expands funding for apprenticeship training, helps reduce student debt and trains locals for successful careers in manufacturing. It’s a win for both businesses and individuals, Durham says, and it ensures companies relocating to Iowa are met with a well-trained workforce.
Manufacturing is such big business in Michigan that it employs 14 percent of the state’s workforce—one-quarter of whom are women. The state, home to Detroit—a.k.a. “Motor City”—manufactures more than just cars, however; chemical products, furniture, plastics and rubber also top the list of goods made in Michigan. Noelle Minasian of the Michigan-based consultancy Airfoil credits the state’s “unmatched” infrastructure with its status as a global manufacturing hub. In addition to boasting renowned research and development facilities—375 for automotives alone—Michigan is only a day’s drive from half of the U.S. population, Minasian says, which allows for the easy transport of goods. “Michigan’s extensive network of logistical assets makes moving manufactured products a seamless process for companies,” she adds.
Iconic companies Harley Davidson and Rockwell Automation have called Wisconsin home for more than a century—a fact that contributes to the state’s “rich history of manufacturing,” says Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. CEO Reed Hall. “That tradition continues today because of the state’s talented and dedicated workforce, world-class education system, outstanding infrastructure and strong pro-business climate.” Illustrating the merit of the latter is Wisconsin’s new Manufacturing and Agricultural Tax Credit, which will virtually eliminate the state’s income tax from manufacturing activities by 2016. “It’s just one of several pro-business public policies the state has put into place in the last four years,” Hall says. Legislators have also established low-interest loans, tax credits and grants for manufacturers—programs that will allow Wisconsin’s tradition of manufacturing to continue in the future.