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Editor’s Note: Highway Access a Top Concern

The need to fix crumbling infrastructure has entered the national conscious more prominently than ever before. The debate on how to best address this challenge has been increasingly playing out in the media and on legislative floors across the nation. Perhaps then, it should come as no surprise that Highway accessibility was the number-one ranked site selection factor by the corporate executives responding to our 29th Annual Corporate survey.

Q1 2015
As we went to press on the Q1 2015 issue of Area Development Magazine, the Washington State Senate passed a $15 billion transportation package that included an incremental gas tax increase of 11.7 cents over the next three years. The bill was then headed for its House. The need to fix the nation’s crumbling infrastructure (explored in this issue’s cover story, “Infrastructure Investment: The Bridge to Economic Growth”) is paramount, as evidenced by the results of our 29th Annual Corporate survey, which also appear in this issue. Highway accessibility is the number-one ranked site selection factor by the corporate executives responding to our survey.

Also as we went to press, the figures for GDP growth for the 4th quarter of 2014 were revised down to 2.2 percent; this follows the robust 5 percent rate of GDP growth in last year’s 3rd quarter. Such seesawing growth may be why 61 percent of those responding to our Corporate Survey told us they believe the economy has not yet achieved a continuous growth track. Nonetheless, the Bureau of Economic Analysis expects GDP growth to average 3 percent this year.

Manufacturing is expected to be one of the drivers of U.S. economic growth over the next 10 years. Its share of output in GDP is projected to increase from 12.7 percent in 2013 to 13.7 percent in 2023. However, manufacturing employment will decline by more than half a million jobs between 2012 and 2022, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Dan Levine of Oxford Economics explains this paradox. Needless to say, many low-skilled, labor-intensive industries will remain highly vulnerable to continued offshoring and automation. But even fast-growing advanced manufacturing industries will show modest employment declines, Levine says. So how can manufacturing drive economic growth? It has one of the highest economic multipliers of any industry — i.e., each $1 of manufacturing investment results in $1.33 of “spillover” economic activity.

Additionally, Levine contends that BLS employment numbers for manufacturing may not be entirely accurate because of the large number of contract or contingent workers employed at manufacturing plants. It is estimated that by 2018 nearly 45 percent of the world’s total workforce will be contingent.

A 2014 study by Ardent Partners notes that 87 percent of those companies that use contingent labor say they do so for projects that require specified, top-tier skills, and 61 percent cite the general “war for talent” as a reason for using contingent labor. We will continue to explore this topic — as well as all of the other top-ranked location factors — as the year progresses.

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