Despite State Trends, City Manufacturing Jobs Grow

Photo: Employees at Pacific Steel and Casting in West Berkeley work on manufacturing steel products. Some of the city's manufacturing companies have reported recent job growth.
Skyler Reid/Staff
Employees at Pacific Steel and Casting in West Berkeley work on manufacturing steel products. Some of the city's manufacturing companies have reported recent job growth.

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Correction Appended

In spite of the downward trend in employment in the manufacturing industry statewide, several companies in Berkeley are reporting growth and hoping the trend will continue.

Preliminary reports show a 0.2 percent decrease in employment in Alameda County's manufacturing sector between December and January, according to the California Employment Development Department.

But over the past three months, Pacific Steel Casting Company, Berkeley's second largest manufacturer, has brought back 150 of the 300 workers it laid off at the first half of last year, according to Barry Scott, human resources director for the company.

"We get affected first of all when there's going to be a recession," Scott said. "But we start feeling the benefits more rapidly on the recovery."

Meanwhile, an economic summary drafted by Berkeley's Office of Economic Development and presented March 10 reported that the number of medium-sized manufacturing companies in the city has significantly decreased in the past decade, from 74 in 1994 to 38 in 2007, despite goals of the West Berkeley Plan to stabilize and renew growth in manufacturing.

"The trend in manufacturing employment in Berkeley over the last 50 years has been downward," said David Fogarty, the city's economic development project coordinator. "But we're hoping that we can reverse that by recruiting more high-tech firms that can do more (research and development) in Berkeley and will decide to start up here."

The report recommends that the city utilize its proximity to UC Berkeley as a "comparative advantage" to attract more start-up firms developing new products that will create jobs in areas including manufacturing.

"The (outlook) would be much worse if Berkeley's largest manufacturer, Bayer Healthcare, had not increased employment from 686 in 1991 to 1,700 in 2009," the report states.

West Coast Bayer HealthCare Pharmaceuticals, a chemical and pharmaceutical research and manufacturing company with offices in Berkeley, has been relatively unaffected by last year's economic downturn, according to Sreejit Mohan, director of public policy and communications for the company.

Mohan added that the recession did not cause Bayer to eliminate jobs and that the future of bio-manufacturing looks promising.

"(Bio-manufacturing) is one of the few industries where we have a significant opportunity for growth," he said.

North Cities One-Stop Career Center, which provides free unemployment services in Berkeley, is making an effort to prepare unemployed workers for jobs in innovative fields with promising outlooks, according to Owen Hershey, site manager for the center.

"Certainly we're aware of the decline in manufacturing in the area," Johnson said. "One area we're really trying to emphasize is clean energy. (Manufacturing workers) do have some transferrable skills there."


Correction: Thursday, April 1, 2010
A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Bayer did not have to eliminate jobs. In fact, Bayer did eliminate some jobs last year.

The Daily Californian regrets the error.

Contact Kim Bielak at [email protected]

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