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Ever since Samuel Slater brought the secrets of the English textile industry to America, manufacturing has been a big part of the American economy. From the New England textile mills to Pittsburgh’s steel and Detroit’s automobiles, manufacturing has long been a source of employment for American workers. But for a variety of reasons America is not the epicenter of manufacturing that it once was and some communities have suffered badly from the loss of manufacturing jobs. But it is not all doom and gloom. Some places in America are bucking the trend and are in fact great places for someone who wants to work in manufacturing.

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To find the best places to work in manufacturing SmartAsset looked at 389 different statistical areas and compared them on six metrics. SmartAsset looked at one-year employment growth, five-year employment growth, one-year income growth, five-year income growth, the ratio of manufacturing workers to the total worker population and income left over after housing costs. To get a better idea where we got our data and how we came up with the final index, read the methodology below.

Key Findings

Manufacturing South. While northeastern cities tend to do well in our STEM studies, in this look at manufacturing it was the southern metro areas that tended to do better.

Hard-Working Wisconsin and Texas. Wisconsin is tied with Texas for having the most places in the top 10. Each state has two.

Rising Incomes. While the national trend is down for manufacturing jobs, incomes tend to be rising for the jobs that are still available.

Not a manufacturing worker? Check out SmartAsset’s best cities for pay in STEM.

The Best Places to Work in Manufacturing

1. Richmond-Berea, KY

Located in the heart of Kentucky, the Richmond-Berea area leads our study of best places to work in manufacturing. The standout statistic is the job growth between 2013-2014. According to U.S. Census Bureau data there was a 40% increase in manufacturing jobs in the area over that period. This ranked second of all the places in our study. Wage growth has also kept up with the increase of demand for labor. According to our data average income for manufacturing workers has increased by around 9%, 25th in our study.

2. Charleston-North Charleston, SC

Charleston-North Charleston is one of the more diverse working areas to crack the top 10. In fact only 9.7% of workers in the Charleston-North Charleston area work in manufacturing. But that figure may be changing in the near future. Our data shows that in the period from 2009-2014 there was an increase of 29% in manufacturing jobs. Wages followed suit, growing 26% over the same time period. Companies like Honeywell and Ingevity operate in the Charleston-North Charleston area.

3. Beaumont-Port Arthur, TX

While there has not been great job growth in the Beaumont-Port Arthur area (3.7% over the 2009-2014 period) there has been really strong income growth. During the 2009-2014 period the average salary of a manufacturing worker rose 42% from $66,704 to $95,063. That was the 5th largest increase in our study. Housing costs in the area remain relatively low. Beaumont-Port Arthur has the highest income after housing costs of places we analyzed, at $87,225.

Moving to Texas? Find out what your property taxes will be.

4. Morgantown, WV

Morgantown may be best known as the home of West Virginia University but it also boasts a strong manufacturing sector. 8.9% of Morgantown workers are employed in manufacturing. Over the 2009-2014 period we analyzed, Morgantown saw a 16% increase in manufacturing jobs with a 40% increase in average income. This trend held up looking at the most recent one-year period we have data for as well. From 2013-2014 the average salary of someone working in manufacturing increased 8.6%, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s data.

5. Longview, WA

Located in southwestern Washington, Longview has a long tradition of manufacturing. Longview was originally built as a source of labor for local timber mills. In fact when it was built it was the first ever city planned and built exclusively on private funds. That timber tradition continues today. KapStone, the paper manufacturing company, and Weyerhaeuser, the tree harvesting company, have a large presence in the city. In total 21% of Longview workers work in manufacturing in some capacity. Over the 2009-2014 period Longview saw growth in manufacturing jobs of 8.3% and growth in average incomes for manufacturing jobs of 22%.

6. Marinette, WI-MI

Like Longview, Marinette made its initial fortune in the timber boom of the late 19th and early 20th century. Marinette is not just a timber town, however. There is also the Marinette Marine, Ansul/Tyco company and Waupaca Foundry all offering manufacturing jobs in the area. Because of the presence of those companies and others, manufacturing workers make up 38% of all workers in the area. That is the third-highest figure in our study. The average income of workers in Marinette  grew by 31% over the 2009-2014 period, one of the highest in the study.

7. Charlottesville, VA

Only 5.3% of workers in Charlottesville work in manufacturing, so it may be a surprise to see it so high on our list. But thanks to strong recent growth the area makes it into the top 10. According to U.S. Census Bureau data during the 2009-2014 period there was a 13% increase in manufacturing jobs and an average income increase of 28%. Over the shorter 2013-2014 period there was an 8% increase in manufacturing jobs and an average income increase of 16%.

8. Watertown-Fort Atkinson, WI

The Watertown-Fort Atkinson area is in many ways similar to its Wisconsin cousin Marinette. It has a large manufacturing sector (32% of workers work in manufacturing) and has seen the average income of manufacturing workers grow (from 2009-2014 average income of manufacturing workers rose 22%). Watertown is more known for its food processors like Classen Coatings and Emil’s Frozen Pizza.

9. Ogden-Clearfield, UT

According to U.S. Census Bureau data over the 2009-2014 period the number of manufacturing jobs in the Ogden metro area grew 48% while average incomes for manufacturing workers grew 33%. One of the largest automotive safety equipment manufacturers, Autoliv, is headquartered in Ogden.

10. Odessa, TX

Odessa is known as a boom town so it makes sense to see it in the top 10 list for best places to work in manufacturing. The boom in Odessa is diversified however, as only 7% of workers in Odessa work in manufacturing. But for the people looking to work in manufacturing there is good news. Over the 2009-2014 period Odessa saw manufacturing job growth of 20.47% and income growth of 36%. Odessa has one of the highest after housing incomes in our study at $55,932.

Find out information on Texas taxes here. 

The Best Places to Work in Manufacturing

Data and Methodology

To find the best places to work in manufacturing, SmartAsset looked at the U.S. Census Bureau data on income and employment for manufacturing workers in 398 of America’s largest statistical areas. Specifically, we considered the following six metrics:

One-year employment growth. Data comes from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Five-year employment growth. Data comes from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Manufacturing jobs as a percentage of the total workforce. Data comes from the U.S. Census Bureau.

One-year income growth. Data comes from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Five-year income growth. Data comes from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Income after housing costs. This is the average income minus average housing costs, including property taxes and insurance.

We ranked each metro area on those six metrics and then averaged those rankings, giving equal weight to each metric. Lastly, we calculated an index score ranging from 0 and 100 based on the average ranking. The city with the best overall average scored 100.

Questions about our study? Contact us at

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Derek Miller, CEPF® Derek Miller is a graduate of the University of Edinburgh where he studied economics. He is passionate about using data to help people make better financial decisions. Derek is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance® (CEPF®) and a member of the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing. He is a data journalist whose expertise is in finding the stories within the numbers. Derek's writing has been featured on Yahoo, AOL, and Huffington Post. He believes the biggest financial mistake people make is waiting too late to save for retirement and missing out on the wonders of compounding interest. Derek lives in Brooklyn.
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