Kris Holt: Imagine if manufacturing declined in the capital region
Try this exercise to get a better sense of manufacturing’s continuing importance to the capital region (Carson, Douglas, Lyon and Storey counties). Imagine what would happen if this sector suddenly disappeared. Nearly 7,700 jobs would be lost. The region would immediately fall into a deep and long-lasting economic depression. Tax revenues would plunge, forcing schools and libraries to cut back and governments (both state and local) to slash services. Government jobs, including many that carry generous health care and pension benefits, would be eliminated. Income to charities and social service agencies would shrink. The morale and pride of our citizens, the opportunities for our children, and the quality of higher education would come under strained duress.
Drive through the 28 industrial parks in the capital region and you’ll see many for sale and for lease signs today. We are experiencing the highest industrial property vacancy rates (20-22 percent) in recent history. Manufacturers retain huge investments in facilities, equipment and payrolls.
In the capital region, manufacturing is a principle force fueling growth in jobs and income. Light manufacturers and suppliers generate much of the economic activity that powers the growth of the entire region. Right now, we have 160 manufacturers in Carson City, 105 in Lyon County, 42 in Storey County, and 75 in Douglas County.
A common view has been that the activity has shifted to the services sector. Certainly, from an employment standpoint, that’s true. Nevada’s economic engine is gaming/hospitality, construction, mining and “services”. Today, manufacturing employs only 14.9 percent in the capital region.
In contrast, the service sector accounts for 21.1 percent of the jobs. The average manufacturing job pays $43,493 annually ($20.91 an hour), and most include benefits. The retail service sector employs 37.7 percent of the jobs and pays $22,685 annually ($10.91 an hour) and often does not include benefits. Plus manufacturing jobs support many of the jobs in services and other sectors. It’s the multiplier effect.
Manufacturing would never fall silent at once, all across the region. Even in the worst possible circumstances, only a gradual decline would occur. Yet, as the dust settles on an era when so many of us are rushing into tomorrow’s economy without much regard for what remains today, thinking the unthinkable drives home an often-forgotten reality: America, Nevada, and the capital region still needs manufacturing.
Much of what makes northern Nevada great rides on the quality and vitality of its industry.
From Carson City to Douglas, Lyon and Storey counties, manufacturing remains a critical part of the capital region. By reaching a better understanding of how and where manufacturing works best today, we can enhance the prospect that it will work better tomorrow. That, in turn, will go a long way toward guaranteeing the capital region a more prosperous future.
We need to work together now to retain, expand and recruit additional jobs and investment in our region. Manufacturing matters.