Manufacturing Jobs On The Decline

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Maryville, Blount (WVLT) - A Blount County manufacturer plans to downsize its operations by 180 workers, but is this part of a trend for 2007 here in East Tennessee?

The short answer to that question is yes. Economists are saying the days of working harder is being replaced with working smarter with well trained workers using technology to maximize output.

Ceramaspeed of Maryville is downsizing cutting it's workforce by more than half.

"We'd be making 180 job reductions in the plant here in Maryville," says Cermaspeed Manufacturing Vice President Mick Ingleston.

The company makes ceramic heating elements for stoves. Company officials cite the downturn to competition.

"We see some of our customers and competitors moving down to Mexico to compete with the lower costs down there," Ingleston says.

The trend in manufacturing in East Tennessee is the same.

"Manufacturing employment continues to fall, but manufacturing output continues to grow," says UT Economist Dr. William Fox.

Statistics from the UT Center for Business and Business Research show just that. In 2000, the Knoxville area had 44,000 manufacturing jobs, 40 point 8,000 in 2002, 38.7 in 2004, and down to just 38.1 in 2006.

Officials say hard work of the past is being replaced by smart work for the future.

"You're going to have to be able to work with a more sophisticated technology than you have often worked with in the past," says Dr. Fox.

That includes things like robotics which move fast but take a skilled worker to run.

Ceramaspeed officials say they're doing just that with a reduced workforce to 120 people that will streamline their operations at the Maryville plant.

"Making some changes currently to be able to support our UK operation so that we can maximize the capacity out of this location with the remaining production," Ingleston.

Dr. Fox says many of the manufacturing jobs are being replaced with jobs in an ever growing service industry.

Ingleston says they have a great workforce and have announced the layoffs in plenty of time to give affected workers extra time.

That time they hope to use to retrain workers into other manufacturing jobs in the area or in the ever growing service area.