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June 23, 2014

Seventh District R&D: Manufacturing the Leader

By Bill Testa

Few would take issue that the U.S. economy is propelled by innovation. To stay ahead of their competitors, virtually all enterprises engage in innovation of one form or another. Such innovations take the form of improvements to products, services, and internal processes of production and delivery. In the case of start-ups or new enterprises, the proportion of activity devoted to innovation can be the dominant activity for years prior to its actual operation and revenue generation. Start-up firms have captured the imagination of cities that are encouraging entrepreneurs in their pursuits.[1] Recently, the State of Illinois has offered funds to expand Chicago’s prominent new business incubator, which is named “1871” in reference to re-building from the great fire of that year. Similarly, the City of Detroit will seek to designate and boost its “TechTown” as a major part of its economic redevelopment.

Many established businesses also engage in innovation, but they do so in a more formal way, that is by budgeting for and performing research and development (R&D). The National Science Foundation tracks R&D funds across all sectors, including the U.S. business sector. Their preliminary estimates for 2012 report that the business sector overall performed 70 percent of the nation’s R&D, amounting to $316.7 billion, followed by federal government (12.2 percent), and universities and colleges (13.9 percent).[2]

In tracking R&D performance as measured in dollars that can be allocated across states, the table below ranks Seventh District states by the dollar amount of R&D for each of four major categories for the latest year available, 2011.[3] The business sector dwarfs others in 2011, accounting for almost 70 percent of R&D performed. By this measure, each District state is ranked above the national average, with Michigan’s sixth place and Illinois’ eighth place figuring very prominently. Based largely on the strength of their performance in the business sector, these states also rank highly in overall R&D performed, at seventh for Michigan and eighth for Illinois. Significant contributions to their rankings are also evident from universities and colleges and federally funded R&D Centers (Illinois), and in the case of Michigan, universities and federal government operations.

Within the business sector, manufacturing companies continue to conduct the lion’s share of R&D. As shown below, manufacturing performed 68.5 percent of private sector R&D in 2011. This is down from previous decades, as several service sectors have grown rapidly. In particular, the software publication, computer systems design, and scientific services sectors now comprise, in aggregate, 19.2 percent of R&D performed.

But rather than these service sectors, manufacturing remains the primary contributor to the Seventh District’s R&D prominence. The far right columns in the table below display the District’s relative employment concentration in leading R&D sectors by individual industry.[4] The first three rows present the employment concentration of leading service industries in R&D performance. With a few exceptions, such as Wisconsin’s high concentration in software publishing at 39 percent above the national average, District state concentrations tend to fall below national levels. In contrast, the manufacturing leaders in R&D activity are much more concentrated in District states. For example, concentrations in non-medicinal chemicals such as industrial chemicals exceed national levels in every District state, as does the machinery industry concentration. Pharmaceuticals and medicinals are strong in Indiana and Illinois, while electronic equipment employment is especially concentrated in Illnois and Wisconsin. Meanwhile, employment concentrations in the motor vehicle industries are off the charts in Indiana and Michigan. And as previously discussed, automotive employment and spending for R&D have become much more concentrated there than the total employment numbers might suggest, as the state has held onto its R&D even as production activities have moved to other states and regions.

Among major R&D performers in manufacturing, the only area in which the Seventh District does not have a significant employment concentration is the computer and electronic products sector. This sector’s products and components are distinguished by “the design and use of integrated circuits and the application of highly specialized miniaturization technologies (which) are common elements….”[5] Manufacturing activity and employment in this sector have tended to concentrate in California, Texas, Massachusetts, and other states outside of the Midwest region.

As regions look to innovation as the wellspring of their economic development, they may be well advised to build on their existing sources of innovation activity. For the states of the Seventh District, the traditional base of manufacturing industries is clearly an important candidate.
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[1]See http://www.brookings.edu/about/programs/metro/innovation-districts.(Return to text)

[2]Funding patterns differ from R&D performer patterns; the federal government funds almost 30% of overall R&D, with large proportions allocated to the business sector (especially defense contractors) and colleges and universities. The character of R&D also differs across sectors, with colleges and universities typically engaging in “basic” research, an activity that advances science with no specific application. In contrast, businesses more often fund development and applied R&D, activities that are intended to introduce new products or services into commercial use. See InfoBrief, NSF 140307, December 2013.(Return to text)

[3]For individual state profiles with many measures, see http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/states/interactive/show.cfm?stateID=53,14&year=0.(Return to text)

[4]Employment concentrations are measured here across all occupations of firms in the sector, not solely R&D activities.(Return to text)

[5] http://www.bls.gov/iag/tgs/iag334.htm (Return to text)

Note: Thanks to Timothy J. Larach for assistance.


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Posted by Testa at 2:19 PM | Comments (0)

June 13, 2014

Industrial Cities Initiative Profiled in New Report

By Emily Engel and Jere Boyle (via)

Community Development and Policy Studies at the Chicago Fed recently published profiles of a group of 10 cities that experienced significant manufacturing job loss in recent decades.

The Industrial Cities Initiative (ICI) includes, Aurora and Joliet in Illinois; Fort Wayne and Gary in Indiana; Cedar Rapids and Waterloo in Iowa; Grand Rapids and Pontiac in Michigan; and, Green Bay and Racine in Wisconsin. While each city has been blogged about before (see the “BLOG” tab), a complete set of more detailed profiles are now compiled into one report.

Collectively, the profiles provide insights from local economic development leaders on the cities’ actions in the wake of the job loss that have either helped or hindered redevelopment efforts.

The authors and contributors to the ICI do not pass judgment on individual cities. So, while we understand the temptation to simply link directly to just one city’s profile, we encourage readers to start their exploration of the ICI with the Summary.

The ICI looked at cities’ conditions, trends and experiences and concluded that efforts to improve their economic and social well-being are shaped by:

  • Macroeconomic forces: Regardless of their size or location, these cities are impacted by globalization, immigration, education, job training needs, demographic trends including an aging population, and the benefits and burdens of wealth, wages, and poverty;
  • State and national policies: State and national policies pit one city against another in a zero-sum competition for job- and wealth-generating firms; and
  • The dynamic relationship between the city and the region in which it is located: Regional strengths and weaknesses to a large extent determine the fate of the respective cities.

The ICI homepage provides access to the full ICI report, individual ICI city profiles and related research, and blogs from around the country about cities that share a manufacturing legacy.


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Posted by Testa at 1:02 AM | Comments (0)

June 4, 2014

Seventh District Update

by Thom Walstrum and Scott Brave

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A summary of economic conditions in the Seventh District from the latest release of the Beige Book and from other indicators of regional business activity:

Overall conditions: Growth in economic activity in the Seventh District was moderate in April and May. Although contacts were expecting a stronger pick-up in growth, they maintained their optimistic outlooks for the remainder of the year.
Consumer spending: Growth in consumer spending increased slightly, but overall remained modest. Several retail contacts reported higher than normal inventories in anticipation of stronger summer sales. Light vehicle sales decreased slightly.
Business Spending: Business spending grew at a moderate pace, led by higher capital expenditures on equipment and software. Hiring plans changed little from the previous period.
Construction and Real Estate: Growth in construction and real estate activity picked up. Residential construction increased, while nonresidential construction continued to expand at a slow pace. Contacts also noted improvement in residential and commercial real estate markets.
Manufacturing: Manufacturing production continued to grow at a moderate pace. Capacity utilization in the auto and steel industries increased as production levels rose. Demand for heavy machinery grew at a slow but steady pace, weighed down by the weakness in mining.
Banking and finance: Credit conditions improved slightly. Corporate financing costs decreased. Business lending increased, driven by commercial and industrial loan demand from small businesses. Growth in consumer loan demand remained modest.
Prices and Costs: Cost pressures increased, but overall were modest. Energy and transportation costs remained elevated. Contacts reported lingering shipment delays of goods and raw materials from the harsh winter weather earlier in the year. Wage pressures rose slightly and non-wage pressures rose moderately.
Agriculture: Corn and soybean planting progressed quickly after precipitation and cool temperatures slowed fieldwork earlier in the spring. Corn and wheat prices were lower, while soybean prices drifted higher. Livestock prices remained well above the levels of a year ago, although hog prices moved lower.

The Midwest Economy Index (MEI) increased to +0.12 in April from –0.04 in March. However, the relative MEI decreased to –0.23 in April from –0.13 in the previous month, remaining negative for the second consecutive month. April’s value for the relative MEI indicates that Midwest economic growth was somewhat lower than would typically be suggested by the growth rate of the national economy.


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Posted by Testa at 2:18 PM | Comments (0)