Where the Jobs Are

Feb. 1, 2011
What does the Rust Belt have to offer that sunnier climates don’t? Would you believe more supply chain career opportunities

We’re still crunching the numbers on the 2011 Salary Survey (which we’ll be presenting next month), but one trend that doesn’t seem to have changed at all is the demography of supply chain management. Roughly one-third of all material handling and logistics managers live in the Midwest, the same percentage we saw in the 2010 survey. Of course, given that most of the manufacturing in the United States is done in the Midwest, and given that most of the supply chain jobs are at manufacturing companies, it makes sense that you’d find a predominance of the supply chain’s best minds clustered in the cold weather states.

It makes sense to us, at least, but maybe not to the rest of the country. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 38 million people moved in 2009, and most of those moves (though certainly not all) were to warmer climates. Penske Truck Rental, a logistics company that supplies many of the do-it-yourself rental vehicles in the country, tracked where all of those relocation moves were heading. Here’s the list:

1. Atlanta, GA

2. Dallas/Fort Worth, TX

3. Phoenix, AZ

4. Orlando, FL

5. Chicago, IL

Explaining the migratory trends, Don Mikes, Penske’s vice president of rental, says, “The patterns we are seeing through consumer truck rentals made online and via our call centers fits the pattern of U.S. population trends. There is a continued heavy migration out of the Midwest and Northeast and into sunny markets.”

I was curious to know if Penske tracked the cities that were emptying out the fastest, too, but they told me they didn’t have that information (or maybe they just didn’t want to embarrass the cities that would be at the top of the list). The Census Bureau, though, has no such worries and over the past 10 years, here are the fastest shrinking cities in the U.S.:

1. New Orleans, LA

2. Flint, MI

3. Cleveland, OH

4. Buffalo, NY

5. Dayton, OH

I take some pride (some might question my sanity here) in personally skewing some of these results. Back in the 1990s, my wife and I contradicted every demographic study when we relocated from sunny Atlanta to not-so-sunny Cleveland.

There is, after all, a downside to living in the south, and it’s not just the increased risks of skin cancer. When the concept of “quality of life” comes up, the city boosters in the nation’s “hot spots” probably don’t tell you what Texas Transportation Institute’s “Urban Mobility Report” would tell you: You’re going to spend a lot of time sitting in traffic in those towns. If you move to Houston, for instance, plan on spending 58 hours per year idling along one of the numerous interstates, bypasses and arteries criss-crossing and circling the city. Dallas/Fort Worth will suck 48 hours out of your annual existence, while Atlanta will cost you 44 hours. Cleveland commuters, in comparison, spend a mere 19 hours stuck in traffic (and much of that downtime is enhanced by glistening flakes of ice crystals), while Buffalo commuters are idling only 17 hours.

Not to make light of the situation (despite what the professional trend-spotters say, every relocation is a personal, not a demographic, choice), the fact remains that most supply chain jobs are just like any other job: You need to be hired first before you can advance in your career. Only 14% of the supply chain jobs in this country are in the South Atlantic region (Atlanta, Charlotte, Orlando, etc.), and even fewer than that—10%—in the South Central region (Dallas, Houston, etc.). So if you’re looking for a fresh challenge in material handling and logistics, your best bet just might be in the good ol’ Rust Belt.