Manufacturing Major Driver of Phelps County Economy

Friday, June 26, 2020

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Employees producing insulin syringes at BD, light towers at Allmand Inc. and farm equipment at Hawkins Manufacturing are making a major impact on the Phelps County economy.

According to a new report, manufacturing is Phelps County’s second-largest employer and generates more than $677 million annually into the local economy.

Nebraska Public Power District Economist Kenneth M. Lemke, Ph.D., compiled the numbers in a new market report to highlight the economic contribution of manufacturing to Phelps County.

Manufacturing jobs employed 850 workers in Phelps County in 2018, placing second only to agriculture jobs that employed 900. BD, which employs nearly 650 workers, is the county’s largest manufacturer.

When taking into account the supply chain jobs and induced jobs related to manufacturing, the employment number rises to 1,620 direct and indirect manufacturing jobs. Total contributions to employee compensation from manufacturing are estimated to be $86.8 million.

These manufacturing jobs provide above-average salaries for area workers. According to the report, the average annual salary for manufacturing jobs in Phelps County is $68,862, which is 51 percent higher than the area average of $39,371. Employee compensation includes wages, salaries and all benefits (health and retirement) and payroll taxes.

PCDC Executive Director Ron Tillery said the number of local jobs tied to manufacturing is “probably higher than most people imagine. With its related supporting industries, manufacturing is a powerful generator of wealth for every economic sector.”

PCDC has supported the recruitment of a quality workforce for local manufacturers by offering high-demand jobs scholarships, which have provided more than $175,000 in scholarships to more than 60 students in the past seven years.

“Many local industries require specialized labor, which is why, in part, that PCDC devotes tens of thousands of dollars every year for high-demand job scholarships,” Tillery said. “Coupled with internal programs at area manufacturers, PCDC has been successful in filling the employment pipeline with local students returning to the Phelps County workforce.”

When it comes to Gross Regional Product, manufacturing ranked as the leading industry in the county with a 2018 GRP value of $178,845,000.

Tillery said it’s important for our market to have diversity within the economy and also within the manufacturing sector to provide stability and to soften the blow of regional, national or global swings in certain sectors.

“PCDC hopes to build on the current numbers using the success of existing manufacturers as an incentive for expansion or recruitment of new businesses,” Tillery said. “There are opportunities for vendors and suppliers to our existing businesses, and we hope to leverage the positive experiences of Phelps County companies to continue our growth.”

Manufacturing also boosts local schools and governments by adding $2.9 million into local property tax rolls (based on 2018 figures). That is 7.5 percent of all property taxes levied in Phelps County in 2018.

“While these direct impacts indicate the importance of manufacturing, they significantly understate the industry’s overall contribution to the Holdrege area economy,” according to the report.

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