In his State of the Union Address, President Obama called for a return to manufacturing and factory jobs as a way to economic recovery. The same recommendation has been made here in North Carolina. N.C. State University economist Mike Walden considers whether manufacturing can really lead an economic revival.
“Well, first of all … manufacturing never really left the nation or state. Actually in terms of the quantity of manufacturing output, we produce more now than we ever did. But what has changed is how we manufacture those products. We’re using many fewer people. We’re using more machinery. We’re using more technology. And I think that will likely continue.
“Now there’s a lot of excitement about the next stage in manufacturing. We hear discussions about robotic manufacturing, 3D manufacturing, high value-added manufacturing. I think these are all areas that both North Carolina and the nation can move into.
“And they will create some jobs, but in terms of returning to those big, big job numbers that we had in manufacturing here in North Carolina and the nation, (it’s) probably not going to happen. That said, though, manufacturing still has a very, very positive impact on the economy in terms of producing income for suppliers down the chain, as well as simply creating spending in the economy. So, I do think manufacturing is coming back, but it’s coming back in a much different form.”