Manufacturing Jobs on the Rise in Miami-Dade for the First Time in Decades

Author  Amy Ellis

MIAMI – After decades of decline, manufacturing employment in Miami-Dade County is showing signs of a comeback, increasing 14.5 percent from 35,738 workers in 2012 to more than 40,800 in 2017, according to a new report from FIU.

Sustaining the trend will be a challenge, however, as nearly one third of local manufacturers said they have considered relocating out of the county.

A collaboration of FIU’s Jorge M. Pérez Metropolitan Center and the Florida Small Business Development Center at FIU, “Make it Miami: Report on South Florida’s Manufacturing Sector 2019” was supported by Citi Community Development.

“Miami has a small but important cluster of advanced manufacturers with significant value to the economy,’’ said Maria Ilcheva, assistant director of planning and operations at the Pérez Met Center and lead author of the report. “They help diversify Miami’s economic landscape and their continued growth is essential for boosting the county’s and region’s economic resilience.”

While manufacturing is not among the top employers in Miami-Dade, with only 4.1 percent of private workers employed in manufacturing jobs, it is a major contributor to the economy, with an economic output of $17.6 billion annually – almost 7 percent of the county’s economy overall.  

Manufacturing also connects with other sectors in South Florida through a multiplier effect. For every job gained or lost in manufacturing, as many as two to three jobs in other segments of the economy may also be lost.

“Urban manufacturing holds great promise for economic opportunity by stimulating job growth for local residents,” said Ines Hernandez, senior vice president, Citi Community Development. “By supporting this research, we aim to help illuminate how the Miami manufacturing sector can create an inclusive path to shared prosperity and greater economic security for its residents.”

Manufacturing creates high-paying, high-skill jobs, with most employees earning above the median wage for the county. A third work in “advanced industries,” characterized by technology, research and development and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) workers. More than 13,000 earn an average of $57,000, which is 10.6 percent higher than the average wage in the county. In some subsectors, like pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing, average wages are over $92,000.

The decline in manufacturing in recent decades hit Miami-Dade particularly hard. The county experienced the largest decline in manufacturing employment, 25.8 percent, compared to five other benchmark counties (Fulton County, GA; Palm Beach County, FL; Broward County, FL; Harris County, TX; and King County, WA) since 2002.

“Miami’s resurgence in the industrial sector speaks volumes,” said Jorge M. Pérez, CEO and Chairman of Related Group. “However, it is also proof of the importance of continuing to nurture Miami’s diverse industries. I commend the Met Center for working to identify the strengths and weaknesses of our local economy, as well as providing policy solutions for organizations to react, adapt and improve.”

The study found that nearly a third of current Miami-Dade manufacturers have considered relocating out of the county due to the cost of doing business; need for access to new markets and customers; high insurance costs; lack of tax incentives; and the need for a more qualified labor pool.

Such challenges create opportunities for local government, workforce agencies and private investors to stimulate the sector – particularly advanced manufacturing. Efforts may include targeted workforce programs, enhancing industry connections and other strategies.  

"This study underscores the importance of creating well-paid jobs that diversify the Miami-Dade economic base beyond tourism and services,” said Howard Frank, director of the Pérez Met Center. “Creating a vibrant manufacturing ‘eco-system’ will require extensive cooperation between the public, private and educational sectors. Further, financial services providers will need to tailor their offerings to manufacturers, particularly new firms with relatively few employees." 

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