Growth is growth, no matter where you start counting.
Yes, time measurements are part and parcel of statistics, so they can fall under the category of lies and danged lies if you insist on dwelling on the negative.
But let's not.
Here are some manufacturing job stats from industrial property broker Gerald L. Gamble:
At the turn of the millennium, 2000-2001, the Oklahoma City metro area had some 54,000 manufacturing jobs; by the end of the first decade of the new century, 2009-2010, the number was down to around 34,000.
The decade was not kind to manufacturing — even before the economy turned sour: Lucent Technologies gone, 1.8 million square feet of space vacant; General Motors gone, 3.9 million square feet vacant; Dayton Tire gone, 2.4 million square feet vacant; others gone, more space vacant, and all before the onset of the Great Recession in 2007.
So let's start then.
Since then, a few outsiders have come in, bringing jobs and taking up big empty spaces:
Cellu Tissue Holdings Inc., now Clearwater Paper, acquired and retrofitted a 325,000-square-foot building at the former Lucent Technologies. Big Industrial LLC came in from Kansas, bought the former Dayton Tire plant and converted it to multitenant space for lease under the name Will Rogers Business Park.
Most recently, just more than a year ago, Malarkey Roofing Products came in from Oregon, retrofitted a can factory and started churning out shingles. And Wisconsin-based Quad/Graphics, here since 2003, added production and expanded its footprint to 1 million square feet.
Friday was National Manufacturing Day. How much of the industrial space here is taken by manufacturing versus warehousing? That's hard to track across the market, said Bob Puckett, industrial broker with Price Edwards & Co.
“In this market, it runs the full spectrum from one-man machine shops to 300,000-square-foot integrated plants,” he said. “We have gained a lot, but it is the non-spectacular type that does not draw a lot of attention.”
The Greater Oklahoma City Chamber took a stab at it, at my request.
Using the first-quarter Xceligent Market Trends report, “We can estimate that manufacturing/light industrial accounts for approximately 55 percent (about 37.7 million square feet) of our market's total commercial industrial space (73.9 million square feet), with the remaining 45 percent spread across bulk warehouse, warehouse-distribution, and a portion of flex,” spokeswoman Kaylee McDaniel said.
Note that that counts all industrial space, and commercial realty brokers mostly track leasable space.
Meanwhile, the energy business has absorbed so many small industrial buildings with equipment yards, owning as well as leasing, that there's a real shortage, according to brokers.
That's a mix of manufacturing and storage space — and office space — including relatively small makers of “rigs and valves and pump jacks and everything else,” Gamble said.
Across all industrial property types, the tight vacancy is bound to keep lease rates rising, Puckett said.
“Continued demand will result in the resurgence of speculative development by those few developers who can finance such projects,” Puckett wrote in the firm's midyear industrial market summary.
No more than three times since I came here in 1999 have there been spates of general speculative industrial construction significant enough to make the news. Bring it. We'll report it.
It'll be big news, especially in light of these banking-lending times and that last part: few developers who can finance such projects.