Manufacturing still a bright spot for Inland Empire
Manufacturing remains a bright spot in the Inland Empire, where the sector is doing better than in the rest of the state and the nation.
For example, manufacturing jobs in San Bernardino County grew by 13 percent from 2009 to 2016 — from 49,000 to 55,500 jobs — according to Robert Kleinhenz, economist for The Center for Economic Forecasting and Development at UC Riverside.
During the same period, the nation saw 3.4 percent growth in manufacturing jobs, and California had just 1.5 percent growth.
The Inland Empire Economic Partnership’s latest Quarterly Economic Report, released in July, shows that manufacturing employment for the two-county region hit 100,000 in June, up by 1,300 jobs, or 1.3 percent, from June 2016.
John Husing, IEEP’s chief economist, and Kleinhenz agree that one reason for the growth of Inland Empire manufacturing is that companies are relocating from Los Angeles County because land is cheaper here and they can design new plants that incorporate today’s more automated manufacturing processes.
That’s a double-edged sword, of course. Automation will endanger many of the new jobs in 10 or 15 years, as Husing has noted.
The Inland Empire is also attractive to manufacturing companies because they can hire workers for lower pay here than in the coastal counties, Husing said. Employees save time and money by giving up a long commute to L.A. County, so they’re willing to settle for somewhat lower pay.
And local governments in the two-county region are receptive to manufacturers needs. That’s not true of state government. Husing has long complained that state environmental regulations hamstring manufacturers and the blue-collar workers they employ.
That came up on a recent multi-day tour by Rep. Norma Torres, D-Ontario, of Inland Empire manufacturers to hear about the challenges they face. One manufacturer told her his company has to outsource a specialized heat treatment process to Michigan, where it can be done for a fraction of what it would cost here because of California’s strict environmental restrictions.
The region is fortunate that a number of manufacturers are able to work through those regulations.