Baltimore manufacturing industry goes high-tech


Baltimore manufacturing industry goes high-tech

Baltimore may still be home to factories that echo the times of the early industrial era, but mixed among the foundries and other older plants are high-tech manufacturers that are leading the market in advanced production.

According to the Baltimore Sun, companies looking to add new manufacturing capabilities to their existing operations are growing in large numbers. In a recently released report from the Brookings Institute, the think tank states manufacturers in the Baltimore area are overwhelmingly high-tech, and urges companies to up manufacturing staffing to include highly trained workers and use what resources the region has.

The report stated that 27 percent of Baltimore's manufacturing jobs are "very high-tech," compared with 16 percent of jobs across the country that are given the same label. As much as one-fifth of the city's manufacturing positions are in computer and electronics production.

According to the news source, the steady stream of high-tech hiring is in part due to the large presence of defense contracting in the region. Northrop Grumman Corp. has facilities near Baltimore that make radar, navigation systems and other guidance equipment, while a number of other smaller companies supply the military with similar items.

But even manufacturers operating outside the high-tech sector are increasing their use of technology.

Case in point: The Domino Sugar refinery. The Baltimore company has cut costs by introducing computer systems that run process control programs that have shown to boost efficiency in key areas, including energy consumption.

"Since we're spending $1.8 million a month on fuel, it's really important," said Stu FitzGibbon, manager of the refinery.

Baltimore's high-tech manufacturing sector is supporting annual salaries that are higher than manufacturing jobs salaries in other metro areas, with the average wage at $72,000 a year. For those in advanced manufacturing positions, salaries can grow as high as $110,000, according to the Sun.

The Brookings report advocates higher wages for manufacturing positions, and urges municipal leaders to help create career opportunities for skilled and unskilled workers without college degrees.

Growth in manufacturing sector jobs has been seen across the country, with the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics findings noting that manufacturing employment continued its upward trend in April, adding another 16,000 jobs. Since January 2010, the industry has added a total of 489,000 new jobs.