Joe Nocera has a NYT piece today about his factory field trip to Charlotte and Winston-Salem to visit new plants built by Siemens and Caterpillar. The most interesting takeaway is that these two companies decided to build in NC instead of China because (1) NC technical colleges do a great job partnering with industry to provide training; (2) for skilled labor, the cost differential between the two countries is not all that large; and (3) shipping costs for the types of products Caterpillar makes play an important role in plant location decisions.
Is there a manufacturing renaissance on the horizon? The good news is that construction of new plants has picked up. The less good news is that the new plants are very capital-intensive and generate modest numbers of new jobs: 800 in Charlotte and 500 in Winston-Salem. Cat is getting $14m in state and local incentives for those 500 jobs, a tidy $28k per job -- a much better bang per buck than the President's jobs bill, as I noted recently on this blog.