October is Manufacturing Month and we’re celebrating one of Nebraska’s largest economic drivers.
Nebraska’s highly productive workforce, affordable real estate and utility costs, low cost of doing business and high-quality transportation networks make the state a natural fit for continued manufacturing growth and good-paying, secure jobs.
When other sectors suffered extensive setbacks during the 2020 pandemic, manufacturing, although significantly impacted, played a major role in driving the economy back to recovery.
“Manufacturers in our state support about 100,000 great-paying jobs. They grow Nebraska through their ingenuity and innovation,” said Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts during an event that kicked off the start of Manufacturing Month. “Our manufacturers are developing products to deliver coronavirus vaccines and creating the next generation of high-tech agricultural machinery to help feed the world. In October, we recognize their contributions to our state and celebrate their inventiveness.“
The more than 1,500 Nebraska manufacturers employ nearly 100,000, or 9.77% of the workforce. (2017, 2019 U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis and the U.S. Census Bureau).
Nebraska manufacturing is a dynamic, growing, high-tech sector, weathering even the worst of the pandemic. In 2020, manufacturing accounted for $13.53 — or 10.4% — of Nebraska’s GDP, matching the pre-pandemic levels of 2019.
Nebraska’s manufacturing sector is diverse, producing products from grocery store shelves to electronic products. Here’s a snapshot of a few manufacturing sectors in the state.
Since the 1800s, Nebraska has been home to some of the nation’s major food processors, such as Tyson, Cargill and ConAgra. Food manufacturing is Nebraska’s largest manufacturing sector, contributing $5.5 billion to Nebraska’s economy (2020, Emsi). Nebraska’s employment in the food processing sector has grown 15 percent in the last ten years, outpacing national growth. The industry is expected to grow 5.4% in the next four years.
You can find products with Nebraska roots in nearly every aisle in your local grocery store, from the meat you buy to the popcorn you snack on. They all have ties to the Nebraska food manufacturing industry.
Part of the success of this manufacturing sector is due in part to Nebraska’s location. We are in the middle of the country’s top agricultural production area. Many of Nebraska’s counties top the national rankings in hog and pig, cattle, corn, soybean and dry and edible bean production. Nebraska is first in the nation in popcorn production and beef and veal exports/commercial cattle slaughter. Factor in Nebraska’s central location with easy access to interstate and rail transportation, it’s easy to see why food manufacturing is a booming business.
Fabricated Metals Manufacturing
Nebraska’s Primary Metal and Fabricated Metal Manufacturing sectors are mature and poised for growth. Employment in the manufacturing sector is expected to grow faster than employment at the national level. With specialties in Machinery Manufacturing — especially Farm Machinery and Equipment Manufacturing sub-sectors, Nebraska is ready to meet the demands of the industry.
A few of the major manufacturers that call Nebraska home include Nucor Corporation, Omaha Steel Castings Company, Behlen Manufacturing, Lindsay Corporation, Chief Industries, Orthman Manufacturing, FAST Global, T-L Irrigation, Reinke Irrigation, Valmont Industries, Brehmer Manufacturing, Timpte Industries, and Sidump’r Trailers.
Nebraska is a national leader in farm machinery and equipment manufacturing, with over 4,600 employees. Nebraska is the second largest farm machinery equipment manufacturing state in the country.
Pet Food Manufacturing
Nebraska has an established and growing pet food processing environment with a high degree of specialization in animal food manufacturing (LQ: 6.09) and dog and cat food manufacturing (LQ: 7.14). Currently, animal food processing — especially companion animal food processing — is one of the quickest growing manufacturing sectors in Nebraska.
The dog and cat food manufacturing sector has seen 20% employment growth in the past five years and is expected to grow 12% by 2025.
Some manufacturers in the state include Fairview Mills, Alphia, Mars Pet Products, Nestle, and Royal Canin.
Nebraska is home to processors and manufacturers along every step of the pet food manufacturing process, with easy access to meat and grain processors, animal slaughtering and ag-related processing. Nebraska is home to many processors of intermediate inputs for the pet food manufacturing industry, finished products, bagging facilities and animal health facilities.