Los Angeles County: Still a Manufacturing Center

By October 25, 2007Economy, Education and Training

Los Angeles Times reporter Walter Hamilton profiles the manufacturing sector in Los Angeles County, finding the sector to be a strong but often overlooked component of the local economy. The story, L.A. County tops in factory jobs is a very good, balanced overview.

Hamilton finds that there are 808,000 factory jobs in the five-county Southern California region, about 11 percent of the local employment. (Slightly below the national percentage.) The advantages of an available skilled workforce and proximity of harbor facilities help offset the higher costs of workers comp, land, labor and taxes. Access to western states customers is also important, as it regional loyalty. Some companies and owners simply view themselves as southern Californians.

But even companies that are loyal to California are frustrated by what they see as excessive regulation and a less-than-friendly attitude toward business.

The result in some cases is that companies maintain their headquarters and a core of high-end jobs in the Southland but move lower-level operations out of state.

Virco Manufacturing Corp., which makes children’s furniture, is based in Torrance but creates most of its new jobs at its Arkansas facility, where regulation is much lighter and energy costs are four times lower, said Robert Virtue, Virco’s president.

“The overregulation is a real deterrent to growth,” Virtue said. “Many of the jobs we’re adding are in Arkansas because the business climate there is good.”

Kudos again to Hamiltion for a balanced report. In recognizing the importance of available skilled labor, he keyed on a major consideration in manufacturing today, one that is slowing gaining more needed attention.

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