Manufacturers in Arizona, California, and Nevada now describe the Great Recession as a memory and their business outlook as good. “The momentum is extraordinary,” says Sandra Watson, president and CEO at the Arizona Commerce Authority. “In 2013 there were about 155,000 manufacturing jobs. In five years, those grew five percent to 162,400 jobs today.”
Companies like Nikola Motor Company and Lucid Motors each added 2,000 jobs, while Orbital, Raytheon, and Intel also grew. Salaries are rising: “The average wage is $72,800, up 6.5 percent from five years ago,” Watson says.
At 10-year-old Arktura in California, a maker of ceiling and wall systems, software that improves production methods makes all the difference. “We’ve expanded with multiple machines,” says Sebastian Munoz, director of design and development. “To simplify steps, you have to create the software.”
Still, they compete for materials. “The automotive industry is now using a lot of aluminum,” he says. “We’re fighting with the big dogs, and that’s always a challenge.”
Bob Potts, research director at the Nevada Governor’s Office of Economic Development, can’t keep up with growth at the Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center. “There’s a battery factory there, a partnership with Panasonic and Tesla,” he says. “And there are big data centers for Apple and Google, and fulfillment centers for Zulily and Amazon.”
Each contributed to Nevada’s 14 percent manufacturing growth year-to-date, with 6,500 jobs added since January.
Small firms like North Las Vegas–based GigaCrete are growing too. Its mineral-based plaster and stucco—able to withstand high winds, deep heat, and 30.06 bullets—are experiencing demand in disaster-stricken areas in California and the Caribbean. “We’ve beaten last year’s sale already,” says Michael Johnson, president and CEO.