The four-county Asheville metro (Buncombe, Henderson, Haywood, and Madison) has a long history of manufacturing activity. In the 1970’s about 30 percent of all workers in the metro where employed in manufacturing. Manufacturing employed from between 36,000 to 30,000 workers until the late 1990’s. However, over the following decade the industry experienced a dramatic decline; losing more than 10,000 jobs between 2000 and 2010 (see chart below). In 2010 manufacturing employment reached its lowest level in forty years; a total of 17,474 workers accounting for just eleven percent of all jobs in the metro.
Since 2010 however, Asheville metro’s manufacturers have experienced a mild rebound. The sector has added a net of nearly 3,000 new jobs and today employs 20,261.
Source: NC Department of Commerce
Asheville metro’s recent manufacturing rebound easily outpaces the gains experienced across the state and nation. Since 2010 the metro’s manufacturers have increased employment by 16.4 percent, while the state is up 8.5 percent and the nation 8.4 percent (see chart below).
2010-2017 Percent Change in Manufacturing Employment
Sources: NC Department of Commerce, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Of course, manufacturing actually represents a wide range of diverse industries. The industry is comprised of about 20 different subsectors, each responding to its own unique local, national and global markets. In the 1970’s textiles and apparel manufacturing likely comprised the largest manufacturing subsectors in the metro, while today electrical equipment and plastics manufacturers top the list.
Asheville metro’s recent manufacturing gains have been led by eight of its subsector manufacturers (see chart below). The strongest gains have come from Beverage manufactures; up 1,274 jobs since 2010. And yes, this subsector represents Asheville’s breweries, along with soft drink makers, distillers, and wineries. In 2010 there were eight Beverage manufacturers employing 199 workers. Today there are 43 Beverage manufacturers employing 1,473. No other manufacturing subsector has experienced such rapid growth. In fact, Asheville’s Beverage manufacturers are responsible for 44 percent of total gains in manufacturing employment since 2010.
2010-2017 Change in Employment
Asheville Manufacturing Subsectors
Sources: NC Department of Commerce, industries with gains greater than 100
So how is manufacturing doing in Asheville? After weathering a significant decade-long decline the industry is experiencing a sustained period of growth. Since 2010 Asheville metro’s manufacturing growth rate has outpaced both the state and nation. Eight manufacturing subsectors are leading the growth; with Beverage manufacturers accounting for nearly half of the increase.
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