U.S. manufacturing outlook brighter for 2012, executive says

January 4, 2012

Though the overall economic picture for the U.S. remains uncertain for 2012, an executive whose company in Radnor, Pennsylvania, tracks various sectors of the economy, has predicted a positive year for the manufacturing industry, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Peter McCausland, chairman and chief executive of Airgas, a company that supplies industrial gases to various sectors, has a 10-page list compiled by his sales force of new industrial plants that are being constructed in the U.S., the newspaper reported.

"This stands out in stark contrast to the last recession, which I like to say lasted from 1998 to 2002," the executive noted, as he said this period would not see a massive shift of factories overseas.

He described the climate following the previous recession, noting "plants were just shut and all the jobs are gone."

The Inquirer reported that the executive said that current gains in manufacturing represent more than a cyclical rebound. McCausland spoke to an increase in the number of jobs that are being brought back to the U.S., at a recent investor conference.

"I think politically the country is tired of sending all the jobs offshore. I think whether you are a Republican or a Democrat, you are in favor of anything that brings the jobs back here, so I think there is that kind of secular trend that we are going to benefit from. And I really do believe that … the renaissance that is starting in U.S. manufacturing is going to become more and more evident as time goes on," said the executive.

Although the Philadelphia Region is yet to see significant gains in the manufacturing surge, future growth may occur. GE is expanding an Erie, Pennsylvania plant, and Puratos Corp., broke ground on a $42 million factory in Pennsauken, according to the Inquirer.

The executive noted that the upper Midwest down to the south-central chemical belt have been the strongest regions for manufacturing, but he expected the gains in these areas to start spreading to the rest of the country.

"We're being told by our customers that they are gearing up," McCausland told the newspaper.

The Institute for Supply Management manufacturing index rose slightly last month, signaling that the industry is already in the midst of a recovery. The sector has grown for 28 straight months, and factory output is picking up now that supply chain disruptions have eased, according to Bloomberg.

While the U.S. experienced growth, according to a separate article from the news outlet, the three biggest economies in Europe – France, Italy and Germany – all reported contraction in the manufacturing industry.