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Iowa factory employment up 1% in 2011, Cedar Rapids retains No. 1 ranking

George C. Ford, CR Gazette –

After several years of decline during the recession, Iowa manufacturing employment rose 1 percent last year, according to an Illinois-based publisher of industry data.

Iowa gained 1,929 industrial jobs between January 2011 and January 2012, compared with a loss of 1.4 percent or 3,972 factory jobs eliminated in 2010, according to the Iowa Manufacturers Register, an industrial directory published annually by Manufacturers’ News of Evanston, Ill. The sharpest drop ever recorded by the directory occurred in 2009 when 4.1 percent or 11,000 manufacturing jobs vanished in the early days of the recession.

Iowa is home to 5,489 manufacturers employing 264,216 workers, compared with 5,548 companies employing 262,287 workers in 2010.

The figures for 2010 were revised to correct miscounts and duplication, according to Jennifer Ratcliff, a spokeswoman for Manufacturers’ News.

“When we go to do each year’s release, we look back to make sure there weren’t any adjustments that need to be made,” Ratcliff said. “We make the adjustments before we issue the release for the following year.”

Tom Dubin, president of Manufacturers’ News, said the final data for 2011 appears to show that the recovery is gaining momentum in Iowa.

“The state’s educated work force, friendly business environment, and investments in green technologies have been a draw for a variety of enterprises,” Dubin said.

Cedar Rapids retained its ranking as Iowas top city for industrial employment with 19,922 manufacturing jobs, up 1 percent over the year. Des Moines accounts for 17,124 jobs with employment also up 1 percent.

Waterloo saw jobs decrease by 1 percent with 12,749 industrial workers, while Davenport accounts for 8,654 of the state’s jobs, up 5.2 percent.

Fifth-ranked Dubuque accounts for 8,588 jobs, up 3.3 percent in 2011 from the previous year.

East Central Iowa accounts for the most industrial employment in the state with 92,287 jobs, up 1 percent over the year. Southeast Iowa is home to 59,489 industrial workers, up 1 percent, while the West Central region accounts for 50,330, with no significant change.

Northeast Iowa saw manufacturing employment rise 1 percent to 23,375 of the state’s jobs, while jobs declined 1.2 percent in northwest Iowa, with the region home to 22,665 industrial workers. Southwest Iowa accounts for 16,070 manufacturing jobs, up 1.2 percent.

Food products manufacturing continues Iowa’s largest industrial sector by employment with 56,811 jobs, with no significant change reported in 2011. Industrial machinery and equipment ranks second with 46,366 jobs, up 1.9 percent.

Third-ranked fabricated metals accounts for 20,860 jobs, up a half percent over the past year.

Industrial that lost jobs between January 2011 and January 2012 include lumber and wood, down 5.5 percent; printing and publishing, down 3.2 percent; furniture and fixtures, down 2.8 percent; paper products, down 1.5 percent; and rubber and plastics, down 1 percent.

Employment remained steady in electronics and instruments as well as related products, while gains were seen in primary metals, up 6.2 percent; transportation equipment, up 4.2 percent; and textiles and apparel, up 1.1 percent.

Bright spots in the last year include Deere in Waterloo, which has announced plans for expanded tractor production; the opening of Vi-COR’s new livestock feed manufacturing facility in Mason City; the Poet-DSM Advanced Biofuels’ planned cellulosic ethanol plant in Emmetsburg; the expansion of Green Plains Renewable Energy’s algae production facility in Shenandoah, and the opening of Plumrose USA’s new pork processing plant in Council Bluffs.

Alcoa recently announced plans for a $300 million investment to expand its rolled-products facility in Riversdale, near Davenport. The expansion will create 150 new jobs, retain 200 existing jobs and involve 150 temporary construction jobs.

Plants closing in Iowa included R.R. Donnelley’s printing plant in Eldridge; a Thomas and Betts facility in Clinton; ConAgra’s popcorn processing factory in Hamburg; and River Bend Industries plant in North Liberty.

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