By Hiroko Sato
DEVENS -- If you think U.S. manufacturing is a thing of the past, Marty Jones wants you to see what's going on in Devens.
From the production of building materials to paper fabrication, Devens is a growing hub for a wide range of manufacturing businesses that accounted for one-third of Devens' workforce during the first three months of this year. The number of manufacturers slightly declined to 14 from 16 in 2010, but they remain the pillar of the Devens economy.
Overall employment at Devens has grown 13 percent since 2010, said Jones, president and CEO of MassDevelopment, the quasi-public state agency that oversees Devens development.
"We are attracting a new mix of businesses as Devens continues to grow," Jones said as she unveiled a new economic report on the 4,400-acre former Army fort.
Prepared by the University of Massachusetts Donahue Institute, the report shows that the number of employers declined to 87 this year from 95 in 2010. On the flip side, the number of jobs in Devens grew to 3,634 as of March 31 -- 426 more than at the end of 2010.
Devens is expecting even more job growth as O'Reilly Auto Parts plans to purchase a 378,000-square-foot building at 15 Independence Drive to create 80 full-time jobs there, said George Ramirez, executive vice president of Devens Operations for MassDevelopment. Ramirez said New England Studios will soon be wrapping up construction of a 15-acre movie-studio complex on Givry Street. Also, Bristol-Myers Squibb announced in April that it will be adding 350 jobs by 2015.
The new report, the second in an annual series issued by MassDevelopment, covers economic progress at Devens as of the end of the first quarter of 2013. Last year's report was based on the 2010 job data, but excluded Evergreen Solar from the job counts. The panel manufacturer closed its local plant in March 2011, laying off 800 workers. Both last year's and this year's reports took into account all the jobs in private, governmental and nonprofit sectors, but excluded military jobs.
According to the report, 2,641 jobs, or 73 percent of all Devens employment, came from the private sector, compared to 67 percent in 2010. Contributing to these statistics were five businesses that have moved to Devens since the beginning of 2011, according to Jones. The largest among those is Saint-Gobain, a manufacturer of packaging materials on Barnum Road, which has said it planned to hire 90 people when announcing the opening of the local location last June.
Other new businesses include DCS Corp. on Buena Vista Street and Patterson Veterinarian Supply on Barnum Road.
The 14 manufacturing firms in Devens account for 16.1 percent of 87 employers in the community. This is a much higher concentration of manufacturers compared to the state average of 3.2 percent.
Devens manufacturers employ 1,216 workers, up from 951 in 2010, who represent 33 percent of the Devens workforce. This means those manufacturing companies tend to have more employees than other types of businesses locally, said Lindsay Koshgarian, research manager at the UMass Donahue Institute.
Government jobs accounted for 17 percent and nonprofit jobs 11 percent of the entire employment this year, compared to 19 percent and 14 percent in 2010 respectively.
Employers in Devens paid a total of $251.5 million in estimated annual wages to their workers in the third quarter of 2012, up from $220.7 million in 2010. Commercial and nonprofit firms have $841 million in estimated combined sales and also spent $600 million to their supply chains and other area businesses, which employ 3,705 people in Massachusetts. When those ripple effects are taken into consideration, Devens' total contribution to the regional economy amounts to $1.44 billion, according to the report.
Private firms in Devens paid an estimated $2.95 million in state corporate profits tax while the employees of the private and nonprofit firms in Devens paid an estimated $13.59 million in personal income tax, the report states. The average annual wage in Devens was $71,078 for private sector, $49,883 for nonprofits and $73,455 for government jobs in the third quarter of 2012. The overall average wage of the Devens workforce rose to $69,210 from $68,798 in 2010, compared to the state average of $57,304 in the third quarter of 2012, down from $57,799 in 2010.
Jones believes the overall economic growth in Devens stems from Devens' easy access to highways and the railroad, the 75-day permitting process for development projects, and the economic recovery in general.
"We do have this great location that has access to different markets," Jones said of Devens.