Bucking national trends, SB County manufacturing jobs solidly increasing
FONTANA >> Manufacturing jobs have been increasing in the Inland Empire at a much faster rate than the state and nation.
From 2009 to 2016, manufacturing jobs in San Bernardino County increased 13.3 percent — from 49,000 to 55,500 jobs, said Robert Kleinhenz, economist for The Center for Economic Forecasting and Development at UC Riverside.
During that time, manufacturing jobs increased 3.4 percent nationally, and 1.5 percent in California, Kleinhenz said.
Part of the reason for San Bernardino County’s manufacturing job growth is that companies are relocating from Los Angeles County because land is cheaper and they can design plants that reflect today’s more automated manufacturing process, said Kleinhenz and John Husing, chief economist for the Inland Empire Economic Partnership.
Husing did not have the statistics available, but he said the trend is occurring in Riverside County as well.
Another reason is that local governments in the two-county area are more receptive to manufacturers’ needs, and companies can hire employees for less money here, in part because employees will spend less for their workday commute, Husing said.
Fabricated metal manufacturing employs about 8,000 people in San Bernardino County and comprises the largest job sector for the industry, Kleinhenz said.
Food manufacturing accounts for 7,000 jobs in San Bernardino County, while plastics and rubber product manufacturers employ about 6,000, he said.
It’s unclear how long the rapid growth will continue here.
Most of the manufacturing job losses in the U.S. over the past 25 years have been related to automation. This trend will continue to put long-term downward pressures on employment in San Bernardino County, Kleinhenz said.
State regulations also are a challenge to manufacturers, the economists said.
Scott Kelly, director of shop operations and sales at Santa Fe Machine Works in Fontana, said Tuesday that one way his company has coped with higher costs resulting from California’s strict environmental policies is to ship some work out of state.
For example, the injection and extrusion screw manufacturer sends some items requiring a specialized heat treatment process to Michigan, where the work can be done for the fraction of what it would cost to have it done within this state, Kelly said.
Santa Fe was one of several firms included in a multi-day tour of Inland Empire manufacturers by Rep Norma Torres, D-Pomona, to learn about the challenges local manufacturers face.
Also included on the tour, which concludes Friday, are manufacturers in Ontario, Pomona, Chino, Bloomington and Rialto.
“Most people don’t think of manufacturing when they think of the Inland Empire, yet local manufacturers continue to fuel the region’s economy and produce goods used across the globe in nearly every sector,” Torres said in a statement.