In the Data Economy, America Is Still a Manufacturer

Official statistics tell us that over the last three decades, Americans’ employment in manufacturing has dramatically declined, replaced by jobs in the services sector.

But those statistics are misleading, suggesting that America is no longer able to make things in an economically competitive manner.  That is simply not true, when you consider that manufacturing encompasses not just cars and clothes and commoditized trinkets, but also the sophisticated infrastructure that supports the Data Economy. When it comes to making things that support our digital world, America is still very, very well positioned.

At a recent Congressional hearing (where IO President Anthony Wanger testified), Arizona Congressman David Schweikert summed it up well: “So often when we speak about manufacturing we think of the production of widgets, not understanding the platforms required to manage in an information world.”

Indeed. The software and hardware on which the information world runs is, in fact, a large and growing industry–and employer–in the United States. According to new research by the Progressive Policy Institute, a conservative estimate of employment in the “App Economy” is 752,000 – up 40% in a single year, and dispelling the notion that the tech sector is creating wealth at the expense of actual jobs.

In truth, that 752,000 is a small slice of the pie, referencing just those jobs related to the development and deployment of mobile applications; the figure doesn’t include all the other jobs in the Data Economy – like those necessary to develop, deploy, and maintain the infrastructure on which those mobile applications run. All told, the Data Economy employs far more Americans than official statistics reveal.

Why America Needs the Data Economy

Manufacturing has historically played an important role in making America great. And it still does. We all know the Great Recession has really done a number on “traditional” manufacturing jobs. To get out of this slump – what some economists mislabel as a “new normal” – we need to continue innovating, creating jobs that manufacture goods for the Data Economy.

At that Congressional hearing where he told IO’s “Made in America” story, IO President Anthony Wanger explained: “We manufacture our data center modules in Chandler, Arizona; we recently doubled the size of our factory from two lines to four lines – adding almost 100 new jobs. In addition, we employ a great deal of technical specialists, including software developers.” (Watch the video.)

And beyond the nearly 400 (and rapidly growing) jobs that IO directly provides, IO is part of what Mr. Wanger called “a terrific ecosystem of supply chain, installation, and other partners. When a small business is able to succeed and grow, we’re able to take a lot of folks along with us.” It is this kind of Data Economy ecosystem that will power America’s economic growth into the future.

Growing Data Economy ecosystems requires innovation that America can export. IO recently landed its first IO.Anywhere modules in Singapore. As Mr. Wanger stated, “It was a proud moment for us to see great,high-technology products going from the U.S. to Asia and the rest of the world.”

Data is an Economic Engine

Given that data pervades almost every aspect of our lives and almost every industry in the U.S. – from auto manufacturing to medical care to education to entertainment – the Data Economy is bound to be a powerful driver of American economic growth. This is one more reason that IO is committed to making the data center—a foundational element on which the entire Data Economy rests—smart, strong, safe, agile and elastic.