TIP Strategies is a privately held Austin-based economic development consulting firm committed to providing quality solutions for public and private‑sector clients.
This blog is dedicated to exploring new data and trends in economic development.
By: Rob Sentz
Click here to see the interactive map
Which industries are the top drivers of job growth for each of the 100 largest U.S. markets? Which metros have added the most jobs post-recession? Which metros have the biggest concentration of jobs in healthcare, technology, construction, manufacturing, energy and other top fields?
The U.S. economy is composed of hundreds of industries that are spread across thousands of counties, and the interactions of these industries are huge engines for job formation and economic prosperity.
CareerBuilder and EMSI have teamed up to create a powerful interactive map that applies big data to visualize the enormous size, scope and diversity of the U.S. economy. The map uses EMSI’s rich labor market database of over 90 national and state employment resources to identify key industries that are driving job growth for the 100 most populous U.S. metros. 1
Viewers can click on each metro and the map reveals 10 of the most important detailed industries for that location, based on number of 2013 jobs, job growth since 2010 and job concentration. From well-known economic forces (e.g., finance in New York City and aerospace products and parts manufacturing in Seattle) to emerging sectors (e.g., motor vehicle body and trailer manufacturing in Nashville and data processing and hosting in San Antonio), the map provides comprehensive – and often surprising – insights.
Viewers can also click on an industry menu to see a list of metros where a specific industry is a major economic driver.
“Since 2010, the national workforce has grown four percent, but more than 40 large metros have eclipsed the national growth rate,” said Matt Ferguson, CEO of CareerBuilder. “These are metros with a strong concentration of computer systems design, software publishing and data processing and hosting firms. These are metros benefiting from the resurgence in U.S. manufacturing, and the nation’s need to find new energy sources and expand healthcare services.”
In a separate study of the same 100 metros, CareerBuilder and EMSI discovered which metros have added the most jobs per capita post-recession:
1. Salt Lake City, UT – added over 62,000 jobs since 2010, up 9% (534 new jobs per 10,000 people)
Originally a farming community, Salt Lake City has grown into an industrial center for the state. Industries that have experienced strong job growth in this metro include electronic shopping and mail order houses (up 43%), software publishing (up 28%), specialized freight trucking (up 23%) and credit intermediation (up 22%).
2. Grand Rapids-Wyoming, MI – added over 39,000 jobs since 2010, up 10% (513 new jobs per 10,000 people)
This manufacturing heavyweight has benefited from the rebound of production jobs after the recession. The metro saw job increases in various manufacturing segments such as plastics product (up 35%), motor vehicle parts (up 33%), metalworking machinery (up 30%) and office furniture (up 12%). Hospitals also accounted for an upswing in jobs (up 16%).
3. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA – added over 91,000 jobs since 2010, up 10% (498 new jobs per 10,000 people)
It’s no surprise that software publishing (up 30%), computer systems design (up 19%), data processing and hosting (up 16%), computer manufacturing (up 12%) and scientific research (up 9%) are big contributors to employment for this Silicon Valley metro.
4. Austin-Round Rock- San Marcos, TX – added over 90,000 jobs since 2010, up 11% (488 new jobs per 10,000 people)
Austin has made a name for itself as a technology and business hub, fueling job growth in management, scientific and consulting services (up 35%), computer systems design (up 35%), data processing and hosting (up 35%) and semiconductor manufacturing (up 17%).
5. Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, TX – added over 281,000 jobs since 2010, up 10% (451 new jobs per 10,000 people)
Energy-rich Houston continues to see job growth in utility system construction (specifically, oil and gas pipeline, up 45%), mining support (up 38%), metal and mineral (except petroleum) wholesalers (up 31%), oil and gas extraction (up 25%), and architectural and engineering services (21%).
6. Nashville-Davidson-Murfreesboro-Franklin, TN – added over 71,000 jobs since 2010, up 9% (432 new jobs per 10,000 people)
A popular music center, Nashville saw a 25% increase in jobs for independent artists, writers and performers. The metro also saw notable jumps in jobs for motor vehicle manufacturing (up 61%), accounting services (up 37%), general freight trucking (up 17%) and specialty hospitals (up 15%).
7. Provo-Orem, UT – added over 24,000 jobs since 2010, up 12% (427 new jobs per 10,000 people)
The mid-sized Utah metro is well concentrated in a number of fast-growing tech industries: software publishing (up 51%), computer systems design (up 30%) and semiconductor manufacturing (up 14%).
8. Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX – added over 267,000 jobs since 2010, up 9% (400 new jobs per 10,000 people)
Part of the Silicon Prairie, Dallas saw a boost in jobs in computer systems design (up 32%) and communications equipment manufacturing (up 18%). Other key growth areas include oil and gas extraction (up 27%), office administration (up 22%) and credit intermediation (up 13%).
9. Bakersfield-Delano, CA – added 33,000 jobs since 2010, up 11% (394 new jobs per 10,000 people)
Growth in this metro has been fueled by agriculture-related industries such as crop production (up 14%) and dairy product manufacturing (up 11%). Bakersfield has also benefited from an upswing in utility system construction (specifically, oil and gas pipeline), an industry that has more than doubled in employment since 2010 and is nearly seven times as concentrated in Bakersfield than the national average.
10. Charlotte-Gastonia-Rock Hill, NC-SC – added over 70,000 jobs, up 8% (381 new jobs per 10,000 people)
In addition to spectator sports (up 37%), this metro also experienced growth in tech-related industries such as telecommunication carriers (up 31%), management, scientific and consulting services (up 22%), scheduled air transportation (up 17%) and data processing and hosting (up 14%).
Meanwhile, the poorest-performing labor markets are in Scranton–Wilkes-Barre and Albuquerque, both of which have roughly the same number of workers today as they did in 2010. Ten other metros, headlined by Providence, Dayton, and Syracuse, have only grown 1 percent.
The map also reveals pockets of the U.S. where key industries are clustered among the largest cities:
Oil and gas extraction is a major driver of high-wage job growth in Texas, Oklahoma and the surrounding region. It’s also becoming a driver of job growth in Denver.
General freight trucking is concentrated in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast (Nashville, Memphis, Jacksonville, etc.), where transportation routes are plentiful and huge population centers are in close range.
Software publishing has a big presence in Silicon Valley, but is also growing in major markets such as Seattle, Boston, Atlanta and Denver.
General medical and surgical hospitals are driving jobs in Columbus, Chicago, Baltimore, Boston, Rochester and St. Louis, among others.
Highway, street and bridge construction has seen an uptick in jobs in Baton Rouge, Oklahoma City and San Antonio as cities rebuild after natural disasters and address other public concerns.
CareerBuilder and EMSI are national leaders in providing labor market data and tools to dig deeper and better understand national and local economies.
1 EMSI data is collected from more than 90 federal and state sources, such as the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. Census Bureau, and state labor departments. EMSI removes suppressions often found in publicly available data and includes proprietors, creating a complete picture of the workforce.
Economic Modeling Specialists Intl., a CareerBuilder company, turns labor market data into useful information that helps organizations understand the connection between economies, people, and work. Using sound economic principles and good data, we build user-friendly services that help educational institutions, workforce planners, and regional developers build a better workforce and improve the economic conditions in their regions. For more information, visit www.economicmodeling.com.
CareerBuilder is the global leader in human capital solutions, helping companies target and attract great talent. Its online career site, CareerBuilder.com®, is the largest in the United States with more than 24 million unique visitors, 1 million jobs and 50 million resumes. CareerBuilder works with the world’s top employers, providing resources for everything from employment branding and talent and compensation intelligence to recruitment solutions. More than 10,000 websites, including 140 newspapers and broadband portals such as MSN and AOL, feature CareerBuilder’s proprietary job search technology on their career sites. Owned by Gannett Co., Inc. (NYSE:GCI), Tribune Company and The McClatchy Company (NYSE:MNI), CareerBuilder and its subsidiaries operate in the United States, Europe, South America, Canada and Asia. For more information, visit www.careerbuilder.com.
Over the past 6 months, TIP Strategies has helped the Greater Houston Partnership (GHP) facilitate their Regional Workforce Development Task Force and develop a strategic action plan.
The Greater Houston region is on the brink of unprecedented growth. With almost $20 billion in investment in new plants and facilities announced, the next 5 years are slated for rapid expansion. Employers, however, are concerned that the region does not have the talent it needs to fuel this expansion. Further complicating the labor market is the aging of the workforce and the pending wave of retirements.
In response to these concerns, the Greater Houston Partnership convened the Regional Workforce Development Task Force (RWDTF). The task force is composed of 104 members representing 79 organizations, including large employers, workforce and economic development, education, and social services. The task force met six times over the course of last half of 2013 with the intention of formulating an action plan to address the challenges over the next five years. The initiative focused in on the middle skills segment of the job market.
The RWDTF identified 4 gaps in the workforce development system that must be addressed in order to create the pipeline of talent required to meet the needs of the region’s employers. The gaps are:
Potential workers are not aware of the opportunities in the middle skills segment or hold inaccurate perceptions of the jobs.
BASIC SKILLS & EMPLOYABILITY
Many potential workers lack some of the most basic hard and soft skills needed for any middle skills job.
The landscape of programs and organizations with a focus on workforce is broad and varied, but also fragmented.
The lack of accurate, reliable data creates a disconnect between demand and supply.
The strategic action plan takes a sector-based approach to create a more demand-driven workforce system. The strategies are structured around addressing the identified gaps. The plan will be finalized at the end of February and GHP is already on the road to implementation. Stay tuned for more news as GHP hires a director of workforce development and launches its first sector council.
By: Steven Rattner
Via: The New York Times
WITH metronomic regularity, gauzy accounts extol the return of manufacturing jobs to the United States.
One day, it’s Master Lock bringing combination lock fabrication back to Milwaukee from China. Another, it’s Element Electronics commencing assembly of television sets — a function long gone from the United States — in a factory near Detroit.
Breathless headlines in recent months about a “new industrial revolution” and “the promise of a ‘Made in America’ era” suggest it’s a renaissance. This week, when President Obama gives his State of the Union address, he will most likely yet again stress his plans to strengthen our manufacturing base.
But we need to get real about the so-called renaissance, which has in reality been a trickle of jobs, often dependent on huge public subsidies. Most important, in order to compete with China and other low-wage countries, these new jobs offer less in health care, pension and benefits than industrial workers historically received.
In an article in The Atlantic in 2012 about General Electric’s decision to open its first new assembly line in 55 years in Louisville, Ky., it was not until deep in the story that readers learned that the jobs were starting at just over $13.50 an hour. That’s less than $30,000 a year, hardly the middle-class life usually ascribed to manufacturing employment.
This disturbing trend is particularly pronounced in the automobile industry. When Volkswagen opened a plant in Chattanooga, Tenn., in 2011, the company was hailed for bringing around 2,000 fresh auto jobs to America. Little attention was paid to the fact that the beginning wage for assembly line workers was $14.50 per hour, about half of what traditional, unionized workers employed by General Motors or Ford received.
With benefits added in, those workers cost Volkswagen $27 per hour. Consider, though, that in Germany, the average autoworker earns $67 per hour. In effect, even factoring in future pay increases for the Chattanooga employees, Volkswagen has moved production from a high-wage country (Germany) to a low-wage country (the United States).
All told, wages for blue-collar automotive industry workers have dropped by 10 percent, after adjusting for inflation, since the recession ended in June 2009. By comparison, wages across manufacturing dropped by 2.4 percent during the same period, while earnings for Americans in equivalent private-sector jobs fell by “only” 0.5 percent. (To be fair, including benefits, compensation for manufacturing workers remains above that of service employees.)
These dispiriting wage trends are a central reason for the slow economic recovery; without sustained income growth, consumers can’t spend.
Low wages are not the only price that America pays for its manufacturing “renaissance.” Hefty subsidies from federal, state and local government agencies often are required. Tennessee provided an estimated $577 million for Volkswagen — $288,500 per position! To get 1,000 Airbus jobs, Alabama assembled a benefits package of $158 million.
Now Boeing has just used the threat of moving to a nonunion, low-wage state to win both a record subsidy package — $8.7 billion from Washington State — and labor concessions.
Over objections from their local leadership, union workers approved a new contract that would freeze pensions in favor of less generous 401(k) plans, reduce health care benefits and provide for raises totaling just 4 percent over the eight-year term. (Boeing’s stock price rose by over 80 percent last year.)
FOR all the hoopla, the United States has gained just 568,000 manufacturing positions since January 2010 — a small fraction of the nearly six million lost between 2000 and 2009. That’s a slower rate of recovery than for nonmanufacturing employment. “We find very little real evidence of a renaissance in U.S. manufacturing activity,” a recent Morgan Stanley report stated, echoing similar findings from Goldman Sachs.
If anything, the challenges to American manufacturing have grown, as less developed countries have become more adept. In Mexico, where each autoworker earned $7.80 per hour in 2012, auto industry officials say productivity is as high as in the United States, where total compensation costs were $45.34 per hour. No surprise then that in 2013, Mexican automobile production was 50 percent higher than seven years earlier, while output in the United States was at the same 2006 levels.
For the United States to remain competitive against countries like Mexico, productivity must continue to rise. But unlike past gains in productivity, these improvements in efficiency are not being passed along to workers.
And these necessary productivity gains often take the place of hiring more workers; the United States remains the world leader in agriculture while employing less than 2 percent of Americans.
Advanced manufacturing — a sector that many advocate as a path for the United States to remain relevant at making things — also involves a high degree of efficiency, meaning not as many hires and particularly, not as many of those old-fashioned, middle-class, assemble-a-thousand-pieces jobs.
Moreover, the lead that the United States has in some advanced manufacturing areas — notably aerospace — is being compromised by growing capabilities of workers elsewhere. Bombardier is now assembling Learjets in Mexico, and later this year Cessna will start delivering Citation XLS+ business jets that were put together in China.
Similarly, while America’s energy boom will provide an incentive for manufacturers to locate here, don’t count on cheap natural gas to fuel an employment boom. According to a 2009 study, only one-tenth of American manufacturing involved significant energy costs.
While we shouldn’t expect manufacturing to save our economy, we needn’t despair. Among other things, we need to get over the notion that service jobs are invariably inferior. The United States remains a world leader in service industries like education and medicine. Not only do these fields generate well-paying jobs, but they also help with our balance of trade: when foreigners come to America to be educated or treated, those services are tallied as exports.
Manufacturing has been an emotional American touchstone since George Washington wore a wool suit that had been woven in Hartford, Conn., to his first inauguration to illustrate the importance of making stuff at home. We do need to maintain an industrial presence, but perhaps not for the obvious reasons.
For one thing, companies often locate research and development facilities — stuffed with high-paying jobs — near their manufacturing facilities. In addition to jobs, R&D yields high-value intellectual property that spills over into still more innovation and employment. And not surprisingly, every manufacturing position requires an additional 4.6 service and supplier positions to support it.
The challenge for the United States is particularly acute because manufacturing now accounts for just 12 percent of our economy, down from a peak of 28 percent in 1953 and on a par with France and Britain as the least industrialized of major economies.
While keeping that share from dipping further should be a priority, we should be careful to avoid raising false hopes (like Mr. Obama’s unrealistic second-term goal of creating a million manufacturing jobs) and pursuing ill-conceived policies (such as special subsidies for manufacturing).
The president’s proposals — unveiled over the last several years — include the two most important elements of a sensible manufacturing strategy: more training focused on the skills needed by employers and increased spending on research and development.
The United States work force is simultaneously overqualified (15 percent of taxi drivers are college graduates) and underqualified (we rank in the bottom half of many comparisons of developed countries).
When Volkswagen arrived in Chattanooga, it found that not enough eager applicants had the requisite technical skills, so it established a German-style training system (including three-year apprenticeships) at the factory.
As for research and development, the fiscal tightening by the federal government has prevented more investment in this critical area, the exact opposite of what is required. At the same time, while subsidies to draw jobs have become a necessary evil, we should be rigorous about analyzing the value of these costs. And we must stop short of excessive meddling in the private sector, and particularly the notion of picking winners. (Think Solyndra or Fisker.)
Mr. Obama skirted this problem by proposing to create 45 “manufacturing innovation institutes,” which bring together companies, universities and government experts in a kind of laboratory setting to help develop advanced manufacturing strategies.
While these institutes are not going to turn the tide, they might help at the margin. But like the president’s other proposals, they have been largely ignored by Congress. (The White House managed to establish a pilot center in Youngstown, Ohio, and another is coming in Charlotte, N.C.)
Manufacturing would benefit from the same reforms that would help the broader economy: restructuring of our loophole-ridden corporate tax code, new policies to bring in skilled immigrants, added spending on infrastructure and, yes, more trade agreements to encourage foreign direct investment and help get closer to Mr. Obama’s seemingly unattainable goal of doubling our exports.
Those who see a brighter manufacturing picture for the United States argue that wages are rising more rapidly elsewhere, not just in China and Brazil but also in Japan, Germany and France. But just like the “feel good” stories, celebrating this fact ignores the reality that the flip side of wages’ rising faster elsewhere means they are rising more slowly here.
And that is the essence of our challenge: In a flattened world, there will always be another China.
In the below article for Area Development, Beth Mattson-Teig cites announcements by Yokohama, IBM, UBS and others as the latest examples of diversified expansion in the South. Congratulations to TIP client Clarksville, Tennessee, for being selected by Hankook for its $800 million manufacturing facility.
A highly skilled work force and good transportation infrastructure are also drawing aerospace and other high-tech companies.
By: Beth Mattson-Teig
Via: Area Development Online
Automotive Shines Spotlight on Region
Automotive continues to be a powerful engine for growth across much of the South. Yet the region is firing on all cylinders, with expansion occurring across a variety of sectors ranging from aerospace and advanced manufacturing to data centers and technology.
As more of the old line industries that dominated the region, such as textiles, moved off shore, the resurgence in automotive manufacturing is one of the key industries that has fueled economic growth throughout the region. “That has continued, albeit in different volumes and different project types,” says Eric Stavriotis, a senior vice president at CBRE in Chicago.
Eight of the top automakers, ranging from Ford to Hyundai, all have major manufacturing facilities in the South, namely in the states of Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Tennessee. Those major auto manufacturing hubs continue to fuel growth among major OEMs and suppliers. For example, Korean tire manufacturer Hankook Tire Co. announced in October that it would invest $800 million in a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Clarksville, Tenn., that will create 1,800 new jobs. The company is expected to break ground on the new plant by the end of 2014 and begin tire production by 2016.
That announcement comes on the heels of another announcement earlier this spring that Tokyo-based Yokohama Tire Corp. will locate a commercial truck tire plant in West Point, Miss. The company plans to invest $300 million in the initial project that will create 500 new jobs, with potential future expansion that could bring total employment at the plant up to 2,000 jobs. Automotive has helped to shine a spotlight on the region for other industries and emphasized area strengths such as the employment base and transportation infrastructure. In addition, companies also have had the chance to see how the states have put together incentive packages and worked with companies on expansion and relocation projects, says Stavriotis. “Those types of investments do become a catalyst for other industries downstream,” he says.
Targeting Advanced Manufacturing
Automotive — along with a broader focus on advanced manufacturing jobs — continues to be a top focus for the region, including industries such as aerospace, metals, and chemicals. Notably, aerospace is a thriving niche, and Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana are all members of the Aerospace Alliance. Those three states join with Florida to promote the region as an aerospace corridor. Those states are home to major manufacturing and testing operations, as well as NASA facilities.
For example, France-based Eurocopter announced in September that it would start work on expanding its plant in Columbus, Miss., to serve as a final assembly and test site for its AS350 helicopters, the top-selling civil helicopter in the U.S. market. The plant is expected to be ready for assembly operations by Q4 2014.
“We are targeting aerospace, and we are working across state borders to promote the region, and we are finding success in winning some of those projects,” says Adam Murray, a target market specialist for the Tennessee Valley Authority Economic Development.
The entire site selection process is getting more nuanced and more case-by-case depending on a particular business and its unique requirements. “If you were to draw a gross generalization around manufacturing, the Southeast continues to win more than its fair share of projects because of the pro-business environment and lower overall operating costs and high incentives structure that [these states] have set up,” says Stavriotis.
In addition to the myriad of tax credits and financial assistance packages available to today’s businesses throughout the South, there is a distinct emphasis on providing resources to support worker training and development. Louisiana is certainly recognized for its efforts in this area with its FastStart program, which is a customized employee recruiting, screening, and training service that is available to eligible companies at no cost.
Another notable initiative to further expand advanced manufacturing in the region is an effort being led by the University of Alabama-Huntsville to land one of 15 regional Institutes for Manufacturing Innovation (IMIs) that are proposed by the Obama administration. President Obama has proposed the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI) to promote advances and growth in the industry, and he is proposing funding the network with a one-time $1 billion investment.
The University of Alabama-Huntsville is specifically focusing on creating an institute that would promote digital manufacturing and design innovation. If that effort is successful, it could help to establish the area as not only a manufacturing hub, but also an R&D hub for digital manufacturing and design, notes Murray. “That is one example of how we are working across state borders to promote advanced manufacturing,” says Murray.
Pursuing High-Tech Jobs
States throughout the South are continuing to court advanced manufacturing businesses, but there also is a concentrated effort to diversify that business base and attract more higher-paying jobs in industries such as technology.
Louisiana has been very aggressive in pursuing technology, software development, e-commerce, and media companies. Those efforts have paid off with the major coup of landing IBM. The firm selected Baton Rouge as the home of its new IBM Services Center. The $55 million project, which includes an office building and residential tower, broke ground in September, with completion set for mid-2015. The new facility is expected to create 800 new direct jobs by the end of 2016.
Most people don’t consider Baton Rouge to be a hotbed for technology but, clearly, the state put some significant resources behind the project, says Stavriotis. Those resources extend beyond assistance related to constructing the facility to focus on developing the educated work force that IBM will need: the state of Louisiana will provide $14 million over 10 years to expand higher-education programs designed primarily to increase the number of annual computer science graduates. At least 65 percent of those funds will be provided for expansion of the Computer Science Division of the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at Louisiana State University.
Basically, the state has said that if we can get IBM to show up, it will build that technology cluster around them, notes Stavriotis. “That takes a lot of time and resources, and it is pretty impressive that the state could package something like that, and that IBM would be willing to take them up on that offer,” he adds.
Data Centers & E-Commerce
Another target industry for the Southern States is data centers. The South is emerging as a strong player in this market because the fiber and IT infrastructure is getting built to give companies the connectivity and speed that is very important to the data center industry. In addition, companies are becoming more comfortable with the existing work force.
“We have had quite a few success stories, both in the Valley and the South in general, of companies that have come and tested the market and been successful,” says Spencer Sessions, a target market specialist for TVA Economic Development. For example, UBS announced in August that the company would establish a new shared services center in Nashville that will represent a $36.5 million investment and create 1,000 new jobs over the next five years. The new UBS Nashville business solutions center will offer expanded business services in support of UBS’ wealth management and investment banking divisions. UBS currently provides operations support in Nashville through over 200 employees, in addition to its full service Wealth Management office.
To further entice large data center projects to locate in Alabama, the state passed new legislation last year that enhances its existing sales, use, and property tax abatements available to qualifying projects. Both Louisiana and Mississippi also offer incentives specific to data center projects.
The South also continues to garner attention for distribution and e-commerce. For companies that are looking to fulfill a major distribution or warehouse component, Louisville and Memphis automatically jump to the top of the short list because of their ability to get product to their end destinations very quickly. Louisville is a major distribution hub for UPS, while Memphis is a key hub for FedEx. The UPS Worldport Louisville is the largest automated package handling facility in the world. It can handle up to 3.6 million packages per day, and more than 140 companies have located in Kentucky just to be close to the UPS hub.
By: Steve Hargreaves
Over the past few years there’s been a lot of talk about green jobs. But one renewable sector scantly mentioned actually supports more jobs than wind or solar combined: Hydro.
Between 200,000 and 300,000 people currently work in or around hydroelectric dams across the United States, according to the National Hydropower Association.
That’s small compared to the 2.6 million the oil and gas industry claims it employs, but it’s more than wind (80,000, according to the wind industry) and solar (120,000) put together. It’s even more than the 206,000 the National Mining Association says work mining coal.
“There’s a whole host of individuals involved, with lots of different employment opportunities,” said Linda Church Ciocci, the National Hydropower Association’s executive director.
What the jobs are: Most hydro dams in the United States have already been built, so these jobs aren’t really in the construction or engineering of new facilities. Instead, they’re concentrated in operations at existing dams.
Job functions include the engineers and operators who open and close the dams gates, send the power to the grid and otherwise run the place. They also include the mechanics, electricians and other maintenance professionals needed for upkeep on the increasingly aging facilities.
There’s also a mini-industry built around the near-continuous permitting of these massive structures — with their heavy environmental footprint and obvious need for safety. Engineers check structural integrity, while wildlife biologists and botanists monitor a dam’s impact on the river and surrounding environment.
Building a dam itself results in the creation of a massive reservoir behind it — a body of water that can then be used for recreation. Many dams hire park rangers and other personnel to work at these sites, said Ciocci.
Getting a job: Any math, science, engineering or technology majors can get a job as a hydro plant operator, said Alan Hardcastle, a senior research associate at Washington State University’s Energy Program.
Some schools offer two-year degrees in power plant operations, which can act as a stepping stone to a full-fledged engineering degree and are often enough to get a job at a plant, said Hardcastle. The average pay is around $65,000 a year, he said.
Future growth: While dam workers tend to stay at their jobs for a long time, the industry is aging. Between 25% and 50% of dam workers are expected to retire in the next five years, said Ciocci.
Many of the job openings will be in the West — Washington, Oregon and California are the top three states in terms of hydroelectric production. But New York, Tennessee and Alabama are also in the top 10.
The industry also wants to expand. Hydro currently accounts for about 7% of the nation’s electricity production, according to the Energy Information Administration. That’s about twice as much as wind, and dwarfs solar’s 0.1% share (coal, natural gas and nuclear account for the bulk.)
The hydro industry says it could fairly easily increase its output by 60%, if given the proper investment tax credits or mandates from the government. The industry would likely need this government support to grow significantly, as hydro has a high upfront cost and building a natural gas plant is relatively cheap. But hydro produces carbon-free power — a goal for many states.
Much of the expansion could take place on dams already in place but lacking the ability to produce power. Only 3% of the country’s 80,000 dams are wired to produce electricity, said Ciocci.
Environmentalists are lukewarm on the idea though. The tax credits are better left for wind or solar, which tend to not alter the landscape as much, said Nathanael Greene, renewable policy director at the Natural Resources Defense Council. Electrifying some of the dams already built is an idea Greene could support however, if environmental sensitivities were taken into account.
By: Jeremy Hobson
U.S. industrial production rose 0.7 percent last month. The growth, the greatest in three months, was led by strong manufacturing output.
Chris Low, chief economist with FTN Financial, joins Marketplace Morning Report host Jeremy Hobson to explain how increasing industrial production will affect the economy and inflation.