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January 2001
Manufacturing Vitality Underlies Charlotte’s Economy
By John Paul Galles

     At a recent Manufacturers’ Council meeting, Bob Kellen, its executive director, distributed a fact sheet regarding manufacturing in Charlotte. As a proud advocate for area manufacturers, he works to communicate the value of manufacturing and its importance to our local economy. Here are some of the facts he put forward.

Charlotte manufacturing is highly diversified!
Nineteen of the 20 U.S. manufacturing classifications can be found in Charlotte.
Leading industries, based on employment, are:

  • Industrial Machinery
  • Printing and Publishing
  • Food and Beverage
  • Rubber and Plastics
  • Chemical

Charlotte manufacturing employment is strong!

  • 840,000 manufacturing employees make North Carolina 8th in the nation in manufacturing.
  • 16 percent of the state’s manufacturing employment is within the Charlotte Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA).
  • Six percent of the state’s manufacturing employment is within Charlotte.
  • Over 1,100 manufacturing firms employ over 50,000 people in Charlotte.

Charlotte manufacturing has global reach!

  • 719 manufacturers are importing and/or exporting goods.
  • 128 of 377 foreign firms located in Charlotte are manufacturers.
  • 1996 exports from Charlotte/Douglas International Airport totaled $264 million.
  • 1997 export sales from the Charlotte MSA exceeded $2.5 billion.

Charlotte manufacturing makes significant financial contributions!

  • Manufacturers’ Charlotte payroll is over $2.1 billion.
  • Manufacturers pay $1.1 billion in personal property taxes.

From 1992 to 1997, Charlotte manufacturers experienced impressive growth.

     Value added grew by 21 percent from $3.6 billion to $4.4 billion. Shipment values grew 97 percent from $4.5 billion to $8.8 billion. Capital expenditures grew by 52 percent from $196.7 million to $298.5 million. All of this growth occurred while employment went down by 4.5 percent from 52,400 to 50,000 employees. 
According to U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis data, North Carolina became one of the nation’s economic powerhouses during that period (1992 to 1996) when its gross state product – or the value of all goods and services produced in the state – grew 95.13 percent, the 10th fastest-growth rate in the nation. And although ours has traditionally been a manufacturing state, the nature of the manufacturing has changed – shifting away from traditional goods such as furniture and apparel to more high tech fields such as computers and telephone communications. The jobs that are lost in textile mills and manufacturing operations are being recreated elsewhere, particularly in the transportation and service sectors. With a rapidly changing world, Charlotte’s manufacturers will need to continually improve their operations to remain competitive in the global economy. 
Indeed, Mayor Pat McCrory says North Carolina — and particularly Charlotte — will always rely on the traditional sectors. “I’m a strong believer in keeping manufacturing in Charlotte and the region. Westinghouse Boulevard does not get a lot of publicity, but it is a major employment center. Manufacturing is the most important part of our economy, and everything else hinges on that.”

The vitality of Charlotte manufacturers is too significant to be overlooked and is often under recognized in this economic community. To that end, Greater Charlotte Biz will make every effort to report on Charlotte’s manufacturing sector as well as the services, wholesale, retail and technology to demonstrate the healthy diversity of business on an ongoing basis.

John Paul Galles is the publisher of Greater Charlotte Biz.
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