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Southeast Manufacturing Is on a Roll

Economic conditions and manufacturing vary by country and region. In the United States, Southeast manufacturing has a special character and flavor you won’t find anywhere else, based on the region’s proximity and access to the coast, in addition to its social, cultural and historic similarities.

Powered by a combination of new technologies, a highly skilled workforce and major R&D investments, the Southeast United States is a mecca for smart manufacturing and collaborative communication between industry, educational institutions and government. South Carolina alone has more than 3,400 manufacturing firms employing nearly 240,000 workers. Add in North Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, Alabama, Kentucky, Virginia, W. Virginia and Louisiana, and the number of manufacturing workers totals 2.7 million.[1]

Now let’s look at the economic impact. The Southeast generated about 20 percent (more than $380 billion) of the U.S. manufacturing gross domestic product (GDP) in 2014, while the region’s overall GDP is 16.7 percent ($2.1 trillion) of the nationwide GDP of $17.2 trillion — of which 13.3 percent came from the manufacturing sector.[2]

Much of that money was made in industries that are critical to the economy, such as aerospace and automotive — an area in which the Southeast is experiencing exceptional growth. During the past 30 years, the Southeast has transformed into an automotive manufacturing powerhouse that includes more than 300,000 employees, 14 OEMs, and 1,120 manufacturers and suppliers.[3] On an individual state level, South Carolina now leads the nation in the export sales of tires and passenger vehicles, and its manufacturing industry is growing at a record pace that shows no signs of slowing — from establishment of manufacturing headquarters to expansion of advanced manufacturing operations. [4]

Adding to its strength is the business focus that several of the region’s universities and community colleges possess. For example, the University of Tennessee and North Carolina State University both host centers for the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP), whose mission is to enhance the productivity and technological performance of U.S. manufacturing. Each MEP center is a partnership between the federal government and a variety of public or private entities, including state, university and nonprofit organizations.[5]

In addition, the Southeast is home to a variety of national research laboratories and programs, including two Manufacturing USA institutes sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy — one in Tennessee and one in North Carolina. Plus, several other federal and state agencies sponsor research that strengthens the region’s manufacturing ecosystem, including the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Department of Commerce, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Tennessee Valley Authority and the U.S. Geological Survey.[6]

Given the Southeast’s industry-friendly environment, supporting institutions and collaborative government agencies, Southeast manufacturing is on a roll, and all signs are that it will continue that way into the future.

You can see for yourself at the Southeast’s top manufacturing event, SOUTHTEC, which takes place biannually. Learn more at our Why Attend Page.



[1] National Association of Manufacturers,

[2] “Manufacturing Future Is Promising in Southeast U.S.,” Jose Colucci, Jan. 31, 2017,

[3] Ibid.

[4] South Carolina Department of Commerce,

[5] “Manufacturing Future Is Promising in Southeast U.S.,” Jose Colucci, Industrial Equipment News, Jan. 31, 2017,

[6] Ibid.