Despite decades of decline across New York and the country, manufacturing isn’t dead everywhere. The resilience of the industry in Montgomery County is one example.
“Manufacturing in many of the upstate counties is still very important,” Mohawk Valley Regional Economist Mark Barbano said.
While manufacturing makes up just 5.9 percent of private sector employment across the state, those jobs comprise about 20 percent of the Montgomery County private-sector workforce, according to New York Department of Labor data.
That’s a larger presence than many areas, including the nearby Capital Region. Major manufacturers once associated with Schenectady and Troy have faded over the decades and represent just under 5 percent of all jobs (including government) there today. So, a 30-minute commute down the road from the greater Albany area reveals a much different manufacturing landscape.
A History of Hard Work in Montgomery County
Even after a decade of decline, manufacturing is still the second-largest private-sector employer in Montgomery County with about 3,200 jobs.
Montgomery County’s blue-collar reputation established itself back in the early days of Beech-Nut, which was founded more than a century ago and is still headquartered there.
The current economic makeup along with the recent growth of transportation and warehousing helps sustain that identity. The likes of Target, Keymark Corp., Kasson & Keller Inc. and DAIM Logistics also help make the county is one of the increasingly rare places hard-working families can thrive.
A Decade of Decline in Manufacturing
The first decade of the 21st century saw manufacturers invest in advanced technology and outsource in an effort to increase profitability. It worked, but cost a large number of jobs in the process.
Once a staple in the U.S. economy, manufacturing took a particularly bad blow at the national level during the last recession from 2007 to 2009.
The job sector tumbled to the tune of 2.3 million jobs (16.5 percent) in that span and has yet to reach pre-recession levels as of 2015, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. New York and Montgomery County experienced a similar loss.
But, manufacturing has managed to remain a fixture in the Montgomery County, which includes the City of Amsterdam and Town of Canajoharie.
“Montgomery County’s manufacturing trend is very close to that of the nation and better than the upstate area,” Barbano said. “[The county’s] manufacturing share is much higher.”
Between 2003 and 2015, the 52 counties outside of the New York City metro area lost about 21 percent of their manufacturing jobs. Montgomery County lost a comparable 18 percent.
However, manufacturing makes up about 11 percent of private-sector employment in upstate New York compared to 20 percent in Montgomery County. That’s exceptional considering rural America, where manufacturing complemented agriculture as a major employer in its prime, was perhaps the hardest hit by the recession.
While the Great Plains states have slowly made gains in the 2010s, other areas of the country like the Northeast continued to lose, a report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows.
Rural America has traditionally been home to a solid manufacturing base. During the 1970s, the number of rural manufacturing jobs rose 1.3 percent per year, more than three times faster than urban growth, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis.
While that kind of growth is almost certainly gone, the opportunities for blue-collar workers in upstate New York – especially places like Montgomery County – are not. The county has added a decent amount of transportation and warehousing jobs in recent years, many of which require skill sets similar to general manufacturing work.
New Blue-Collar Job Opportunities for the Albany Area
The transportation and warehousing distribution industry job count in Montgomery County has increased more than three-fold since 2000, jumping from 469 to 1,311. The average annual wages have doubled from about $22,000 to $41,000 during the first 15 years of this century.
“A lot of times in the rural areas, if you look at the manufacturing wages, they’re usually a little higher than the average for the area,” Barbano said.
Manufacturing and distribution jobs pay about 12 percent more than the average private-sector annual wage in Montgomery and 30 percent more for employees in the food processing subsector. In the three-county area that includes fellow Capital Region neighbors Schoharie and Fulton, Montgomery jobs are among the highest paying.
A recent survey of top Montgomery area employers, which include manufacturers and distributors, showed there are plenty of job opportunities available.
Explore employment listings and resources at the Montgomery Works website and see if Montgomery County works for you.