For the first time in more than two years, Oklahoma manufacturers have something to be happy about. A report from the Federal Reserve Bank says business is on the rise. But, those companies are far from where they were 30 years ago. It seems new growth isn't coming without growing pains.
At Flex-Ability Concepts on Oklahoma City's southwest side, the sounds of business echo. The feeling of vibrations from machines stamping or grinding away has been joined by another - a sense that business is booming.
“There's an optimism that I've not experienced with my fellow manufacturers in the last couple of years,” said Davie Younge, who works at Progressive Stamping.
According to a new report from the Federal Reserve, manufacturing is back on the rise with growth in all areas, including employment, which hit its highest number since December of 2014.
“I asked the question, how many of you are better than you were a year ago and every hand went up,” said Younge.
As an industry, manufacturing makes up nine percent of the entire economy. But, when the state's largest industry, oil and gas production, took a hit in early 2015, so did manufacturing.
“We saw it in durable goods-manufacturing. As soon as the oil and gas jobs began to decline early in January of 15 was when we started to decline,” said Lynn Gray with the Employment Security Commission.
But with the new rise in business comes changes. What was once done by a creator here is now being done by a computer. A worker who used to create parts by hand could now have to learn how to code. It is a big switch for thousands of workers.
“Those low-level jobs that you can drop out of Junior High School and do in manufacturing are disappearing,” said Younge. “There may be fewer jobs but they're far more sophisticated, they're far better paying so that's what's changing.”
But change doesn't have to be bad. In fact, manufacturers like Younge say the changes are more like growing pains for an industry that is making a comeback, one piece at a time.
“There's something to be said for American ingenuity. We have a culture of creativity. In fact, we like to call our employees creators. We're solving problems and creating things,” said Younge.