Kenosha Co. lands in Forbes’ top manufacturing area list

Area combined with Lake County, Illinois in ranking

Kenall Manufacturing completed its move from Gurnee, Ill. to Kenosha in December 2014. The 354,000-square-foot facility has room for the company to grow without needing another new facility.

The Kenosha County and Lake County areas at the Wisconsin-Illinois border landed in 14th on a Forbes list of U.S. cities winning the battle for manufacturing jobs.

Kenall Manufacturing completed its move from Gurnee, Ill. to Kenosha in December 2014. The 354,000-square-foot facility has room for the company to grow without needing another new facility.
Kenall Manufacturing completed its move from Gurnee, Ill. to Kenosha in December 2014. The 354,000-square-foot facility has room for the company to grow without needing another new facility.

The report found manufacturing has a 14.8 percent share of jobs in the metropolitan area. The region experienced 10.25 percent growth in manufacturing from 2010 to 2015 and 1.07 percent growth in 2015.

Landing on the list, which looked at areas with more than 50,000 manufacturing jobs, was largely the result of Lake County’s strength. Kenosha has about 7,500 manufacturing jobs, while Lake County has more than 51,000.

Growth in manufacturing jobs has exceeded overall growth since 2012 for both counties, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Kenosha’s manufacturing has grown 14.5 percent, while private sector jobs overall are up 14.2 percent. Lake County has seen manufacturing employment jump 6.8 percent, compared to 3.5 percent for private sector jobs as a whole.

Midwest metropolitan areas did particularly well on the Forbes ranking, accounting for seven of the top 15 places.

Forbes contributor Joel Kotkin noted the manufacturing industry has had its share of struggles, but also benefits local economies. He cited Commerce Department data showing the industry has the highest multiplier effect of any sector of the economy.

“Perhaps no sector in the U.S. economy generates more angst than manufacturing. Over the past quarter century, manufacturing has hemorrhaged over 5 million jobs. The devastation of many regional economies, particularly in the Midwest, is testament to this decline. If the information sector has been the golden child of the media, manufacturing has been the offspring that we pity but can’t comfortably embrace,” Kotkin wrote.

A recent BizTimes review of labor data found that manufacturing growth has missed Milwaukee County in recent years. The county has seen average annual employment drop since 2011. Kenosha County had the largest percentage gain over that period.

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Arthur covers banking and finance and the economy at BizTimes while also leading special projects as an associate editor. He also spent five years covering manufacturing at BizTimes. He previously was managing editor at The Waukesha Freeman. He is a graduate of Carroll University and did graduate coursework at Marquette. A native of southeastern Wisconsin, he is also a nationally certified gymnastics judge and enjoys golf on the weekends.

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