Manufacturing employment rises; new factories scout locations

Manufacturing employment in the Reno-Sparks area ticked up this spring no one is exactly sure why and more factory jobs may be on the way.

About 300 jobs were added in the manufacturing sector in the region that includes Washoe and Storey counties, the state Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation said in its May estimate of employment in the region.

Another 200 jobs were added in the logistics sector, which includes warehousing and transportation.

The numbers aren't huge, and employment in both the manufacturing and logistics industries in the region continues to run a combined total of 700 jobs below year-earlier numbers.

"I wouldn't read a whole lot into it but it's not bad news," says Bill Anderson, chief economist for the state jobs agency.

He notes that the manufacturing sector in Nevada was adding jobs throughout much of the past decade even as thousands of U.S. factory jobs moved offshore.

That probably was a reflection of the state's ability to woo manufacturers with an attractive tax and regulatory environment, Anderson says.

But the recession ultimately caught up with Nevada manufacturers, and factory closures were common in early 2009.

Still, the recent job growth is a bright spot among plenty of gloom around employment in the region.

Ray Bacon, executive director of the Nevada Manufacturers Association, says there's no big news that accounts for the uptick in employment.

Most manufacturers with whom Bacon has visited in recent months says they're holding their own and no longer reducing the size of their staffs.

For instance, Sierra Nevada Corp., a major defense and aerospace contractor headquartered in Sparks, steadily added more than 30 workers during the past couple of months.

And a few small manufacturers are beginning to open their doors in the region. Buffalo Wire Works Co., for instance, is hiring about 20 workers at a new facility in Sparks that makes screens and perforated plates for industrial and mining applications.

More manufacturing jobs might be coming.

The Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada is awaiting word, probably by late summer, from four manufacturing companies that are looking seriously at new facilities in the region.

Kevin Frausto, a business development manager with EDAWN, says the four companies represent a total of a couple hundred new jobs.

About 40 percent of the companies that have expressed interest in the region for new facilities are manufacturers, Frausto says. California companies weary of the costs and hassles of doing business in the Golden State continue to account for a large share of the companies taking a look at northern Nevada.

Rob Hooper, executive director of Northern Nevada Development Authority, says the agency headquartered at Carson City is fielding numerous calls from manufacturers.

"That's pretty much who we're dealing with," he says.

Some of the companies scouting the region want to locate manufacturing facilities close to major Western markets, following the lead of distribution companies who long have located here.

Others, Hooper says, look to bring offshore manufacturing back to the United States.

"The cost of transport is outpacing the savings in labor," he says.

American-based manufacturing is getting an especially close look, Hooper says, from companies who use advanced manufacturing technologies and lean manufacturing systems to maintain high quality at low cost.

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