Manufacturing Jobs Boom in Right to Work Tennessee


From early 2010 through this June, manufacturing employment in Right to Work Tennessee grew by 23.5%, or 56,000 jobs. And manufacturing workers in the Volunteer State today earn an average of $66,000 a year in cash pay alone. Image: Dan Henry/(Chattanooga) Times Free Press

News stories published this month in the New York Times and the Chattanooga (Tenn.) Times Free Press highlight the astonishing growth in manufacturing employment experienced by Right To Work Tennessee since the last national recession.

Times reporter Patricia Cohen focuses on the job-creating investments from abroad pouring into Chattanooga, the fourth-largest city in the state, and neighboring communities in southeastern Tennessee:

In Chattanooga and the surrounding region, … more than two dozen companies from 20 countries have set up shop, generating billions of dollars in investment, employing thousands of workers and helping drive Tennessee’s jobless rate to 3.6% in June, a record low for the state.

Volkswagen, which made this spot its North American manufacturing headquarters, now employs more than 3200 people at the plant it opened in 2011. The automaker’s presence has attracted other firms, like the Spanish company Gestamp, which manufactures metal automotive components and employs 634 people.

Japan is the biggest foreign investor, employing 3000 nearby residents at Japanese companies like Komatsu, Toshiba, Hitachi Metals and Toyota. The Haier Group of China has 1500 people working at its appliance manufacturing factory. Wacker Polysilicon North America, a German company, employed 650 people full time in its Bradley County plant after investing $2.5 billion — the largest private investment in the state’s history. A $150 million expansion will add 50 jobs.

Data cited in the Times Free Press article by Dave Flessner show Chattanooga’s manufacturing boom is part of a statewide trend:

In two of the past three years, Tennessee has led the nation in foreign direct investment, much of it in manufacturing, according to the IBM Global Location Trends report on foreign investment in the United States.

As a result, manufacturing employment grew by 56,000 jobs, or nearly 23.5 percent, from early 2010 through June, the most recent month for which figures have been tallied by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Altogether, manufacturers “generate more than $51 billion of output in Tennessee every year, most of which is shipped out of state. Each manufacturing job is estimated to create or support 3.4 other jobs.” Moreover, Tennessee’s “average [annual] manufacturing wage” is $66,000, impressive given the state’s relatively low cost of living. (See the link below to read Flessner’s article in its entirety.)

Tennessee is just one of many Right To Work states that have benefited from rapid growth in factory employment in recent years. Overall, from 2011 to 2016, manufacturing payrolls in Right to Work states as a group expanded by 5.9%, nearly double the 3.0% aggregate gain for forced-unionism states.

Filling jobs toughest task for Tennessee manufacturers | Times Free