Common Attributes of the Top 5 Cities for Advanced Manufacturing

D.C.-based nonprofit Change the Equation has released a list of the top five U.S. cities for advanced manufacturing—Tulsa, Okla., Houston, Detroit, Grand Rapids, Mich. and Toledo, Ohio.

A close look at some of their common attributes shows that other cities with the same characteristics can also become rising centers for advanced manufacturing. They include the presence of industry clusters comprised of advanced manufacturing corporations, startups, materials suppliers, vendors of ancillary services and other supporting businesses, proximity to transportation and natural resources; strong logistics and supply chain channels; research universities with a focus on advanced materials and/or community colleges and tech schools that produce highly-skilled workers; and coalitions of businesses, government economic development agencies, nonprofits and educational institutions that market all of these attributes to lure more advanced manufacturers to their regions.

“Manufacturing has been at the heart of Toledo’s industrial activity since the time it was founded.”

Here is a sampling of the kinds of attributes associated with each city on the list—those which experienced the largest growth in the number of advanced manufacturing jobs between 2009 and 2014:

1. Toledo, Ohio. Its advanced manufacturing jobs rose 43% over the last five years. Promoters say that Toledo and the surrounding Northwest Ohio region stands out as the capital of the new manufacturing economy because it’s “been at the heart of industrial activity since the time it was founded” and “manufacturing is in its bones.” Toledo’s advanced manufacturing sector has numerous supporting organizations, such as the state’s Manufacturing and Technology Small Business Development Center, in which manufacturing and technology specialists provide manufacturers with less than 50 employees with one-on-one counseling to assist in the development and commercialization of innovative technologies and advanced manufacturing.

2. Grand Rapids, Mich. Grand Rapids has seen a 42% increase in advanced manufacturing jobs over the past five years. West Michigan is home to industry leaders in applied technology, sustainable practices and industrial design. The region has some of the nation’s largest industry concentrations in metals, plastics, biopharmaceuticals, medical devices, production technology, automotive, office furniture and food processing. Area manufacturers have partnered with Grand Rapids Community College to pay for education for employees enrolled in the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership program, which also offers mentorship and networking services. Participants earn an associate degree in tooling and manufacturing at the school.

3. Detroit, Mich. Its advanced manufacturing jobs grew 37% since 2009, driven by the auto industry’s revival. Nigel Francis, senior vice president of the Automotive Office at the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, says the auto industry still leads the way in advanced manufacturing. Detroit is also the home of the American Lightweight Materials Manufacturing Innovation Institute, a consortium of private firms and educational universities led by the U.S. Department of Defense and part of the Obama administration’s National Network of Manufacturing Innovation. The institute plans to forge a regional manufacturing environment that introduces new lightweight metals to the auto, aviation and boat commercial and military industries, which should bring more jobs to the broader region of Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Tennessee and Kentucky.

4. Houston, Texas. Texas is making strides with 30% growth in such jobs in the last five years, due in large part to the presence of industry clusters in energy, high-tech and commercialized space exploration. The city is also now home to the Advanced Manufacturing Research Institute, which provides mentorship, infrastructure and research funding for promising “young makers,” at research institutions at Rice University and private companies.

5. Tulsa, Okla. Tulsa has seen a 27% increase in advanced manufacturing jobs since 2009. Tulsa Community College offers free training for entry-level positions in advanced manufacturing. The region also boasts of coordinated marketing efforts between the Oklahoma Manufacturing Alliance, Tulsa Tech, Tulsa Community College,  the Metropolitan Tulsa Chamber of Commerce and private firms.

Also, look at the list for the top 5 cities with the most engineering jobs.


  • Get the CEO Briefing

    Sign up today to get weekly access to the latest issues affecting CEOs in every industry
  • upcoming events