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Corporate Executive Survey Commentary: Skilled Labor Tops the List

Regions that are aggressively investing in work force development are winning the competition for advanced manufacturing firms.

Q1 2014
This 2013 Corporate Survey reinforces trends we are seeing with our clients: labor and highway access continue to be major site selection drivers as companies see opportunities.

The survey results reflect the sluggish growth seen in many global markets following the recession, but slow improvement is evident. More companies have added facilities rather than reduced them, and 45 percent expect to add facilities within two years. Also positive, more are planning on adding employees than reducing their ranks or postponing hires. However, 60 percent have neither added nor reduced facilities over the past 12 months, and opinions are mixed as to when sustained economic growth might emerge - in 2014, 2015, or not until 2016.

Two of the top-three site selection factors are labor-related in both the 2012 and 2013 surveys. Of 26 possible site selection factors, availability of skilled labor tops the 2013 list, jumping up from third place in 2012. Labor costs dropped to third place, trading places with availability of skilled labor. This reflects an uptick we’ve seen in advanced manufacturing as skilled labor and logistics take precedence over labor costs.

Asked about skilled labor, slightly more than 58 percent of survey participants say it is “very important” and nearly 37 say it is “important.” In contrast, only 14 percent say that availability of unskilled labor is “very important.” For advanced manufacturing concerns, skilled labor is particularly critical - and the regions that are aggressively investing in work force development are winning the competition for these companies. Seventy-one percent of respondents report that advanced skills, such as machine tool programming, are what unemployed workers lack.

Sandwiched in between the labor issues is highway accessibility, which continued to be ranked as the second-most-important site selection factor. Of those surveyed, 60.4 percent say such accessibility is “very important,” and 33.1 say it is “important” - and access to highways greatly outscores other modes of transport, including rail, air, and waterways.

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