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New Analysis Challenges Conventional Wisdom on Best Places for Manufacturers

GREAT BARRINGTON, MA – Despite the conventional wisdom that the South is best place for manufacturing in the United States, eight of the top 10 states for cost-efficient manufacturing are located in the West and Northeast, according to new research  by the American Institute for Economic Research (AIER). The research is discussed in the new AIER Economic Bulletin “Competitiveness and Business Costs.”  
AIER Research Fellow Lei Chen, Ph.D., said the “findings explain why manufacturing firms still may want to consider locating their businesses in the Northeast and on the West coast.”

Using 2007 economic census data and a completely data-driven analysis method known as data envelopment analysis, Chen found that the most cost-efficient manufacturing took place in Oregon, Connecticut, Iowa, North Carolina, New York, Arizona, Massachusetts, Nevada, Colorado and Washington. His analysis examined, from an efficiency perspective, inputs including production labor, non-production labor, capital, energy and materials.

The 10 states with the least cost-efficient manufacturing, his analysis showed, were Mississippi, North Dakota, Kentucky, Vermont, Alabama, Louisiana, Alaska, Montana, South Carolina and Idaho.

“States that are the most cost-efficient have manufacturing bases that allocate their resources in such a way that relatively low cost inputs replace high cost ones and inputs are used in the most productive manner,” says Chen. “If all manufacturers allocated their resources this way, on average, U.S. manufacturers could reduce their total production costs by 15.6 % and still produce the same quantities of output.”

Chen’s findings are consistent with those of an earlier study, also revealed in AIER’s Economic Bulletin. That earlier study, which Chen participated in while still on the UConn faculty, provides a state-by-state comparison of the production cost per dollar output of manufactured goods-that is, how much it cost to produce one dollar value of goods in different states.

That study identified Oregon as the state with the lowest unit production cost per dollar of output. Oregon was followed by North Carolina, Virginia, Arizona and New York.

Wyoming, New Mexico, Connecticut, Missouri and South Dakota rounded out the top 10.

The bottom 10, the states with the highest unit manufacturing cost per dollar output, included Vermont, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, West Virginia, Idaho, Nebraska, Alaska, Michigan, South Carolina and Kentucky.

Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and Alabama-all of which have become popular manufacturing hubs in recent years-all had costs in excess of the national average of 83.3 cents per dollar output.

In addition to the top ten, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Colorado, Washington (state), Indiana, Iowa, Connecticut and Missouri all had costs below the national average.

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Charles J. Hellier has been active in the technology of nondestructive testing and related quality and inspection fields since 1957. Here he talks with Quality's managing editor, Michelle Bangert, about the importance of training.
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