Manufacturing accounted for about 23 percent of gross output in 1997 (the first year for which such data are available) but just 18.5 percent last year.


I woke up this morning and I made a mistake.

It's a mistake I make most mornings so now I should refer to it as a habit.

The mistake I made was to turn on the television and watch national cable news. Which channel is almost irrelevant, whether it be CNN, Fox News or MSNBC. They will all have you feeling like the sky is falling in every 30-minute block. As I watched this morning the topic of trade was being discussed and the "Trade War" that was seemingly declared by the President of the United States. Had I been playing a drinking game and took a shot for how many times "tariffs" was mentioned, I would have been three sheets to the wind. Tariffs on Canadian steel. Tariffs on Chinese electronics. It felt like a Bizzaro World version of the Oprah Winfrey Show. "You get a tariff and you get a tariff, the whole studio audience is leaving here today with a tariff."

As I watched this (after first thinking 'Why am I watching this?') I thought that the problem at the heart of this has to be that we do not make things anymore in America. Macroeconomically, this argument could be made and when it is, most go to the anecdotal evidence of family members who have lost manufacturing jobs or manufacturing plants that have closed. These closures have especially hurt small town America and areas that did not have an agglomerated or diversified local economy. Those impacts were personal and deeply felt.

The numbers do reaffirm the loss of manufacturing jobs. According to the Pew Research Center, "Manufacturing jobs peaked in 1979 at 19.4 million, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and by 1987 had fallen to 17.6 million. What had been a slow decline in employment accelerated after the turn of the century, and especially during the Great Recession. Manufacturing payrolls bottomed out at fewer than 11.5 million in early 2010, and even though more than 900,000 manufacturing jobs have been added since, overall employment in manufacturing is still at its lowest level since before the U.S. entered World War II." While we have less people as a nation working in manufacturing, the Pew Research Center goes on to state, "manufacturers made about $5.4 trillion worth of goods and products (in constant 2009 dollars), according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. After adjusting for inflation, manufacturing output in the first quarter of this year was more than 80 percent above its level 30 years ago, according to BLS data. But while U.S. manufacturing output has increased in absolute terms, it still represents a smaller share of the economy than it used to: Manufacturing accounted for about 23 percent of gross output in 1997 (the first year for which such data are available) but just 18.5 percent last year." In short, we make things.

This goes for the East Metro region of Oregon as well. According to the Oregon Employment Department, over 9,000 manufacturing job are housed in the East Metro Region. This is double-digit percentage points more than any other employment type. More than healthcare and social assistance. More than educational services. More than accommodation and food service and more than double that of construction as well as finance/insurance. In short, in East Metro, simply put, We Make Things!

Hyster-Yale, Conner Manufacturing, The Boeing Company, ON Semiconductor and Microchip Technologies, Inc. are just some of the manufacturers here in East Metro. Element Six, a company owned by De Beers Group has announced the construction of a $94 million facility to be built at the Gresham Vista Business Park to manufacture diamonds. According to an article written in The Business Tribune by Hailey Stewart on June 13, 2018, "Construction is set to start this summer and will wrap up in August, 2019. The plant will be fully operational by January 2021, said Element Six Senior Marketing Executive Jez Fernandez. Element Six expects to hire 60 full-time engineers, technicians and other staff."

We make things in East Metro, from semiconductors to airplane parts to (soon to be) diamonds. Diamonds are forever and we will forever make things both in this country and in East Metro.

As I go back to my morning national news show and listen to the dueling economists, one who says tariffs are necessary and one who is saying it will send us into a recession, I am comforted by the fact that we still make stuff.

I have since changed the channel to sports. Great, now I must sit through speculation over where LeBron James will play next year. Oy vey.

Jarvez Hall is the Executive Director of the East Metro Economic Alliance and an Instructor of Social Entrepreneurship at Warner Pacific University. He can be reached at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.