That's the good news from the Los Angeles Economic DevelopmentCorp. The bad news is that—due in large part to those aerospacecutbacks, and a nettlesome shortage of commercial manufacturingspace for sale or rent--the 643,400 figure is a whopping 243,800under the peak manufacturing job year of 1987, when 887,200 suchjobs drove the county's economy.

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Chicago, which held the top position in the nation from 1994 to1996, had 639,500 manufacturing jobs last year, says Ken Ackbarali,an LAEDC economist. Detroit had 446,800, followed by Philadelphiawith 303,200 and New York with 302,100. Ackbarali notes that LACounty has about 9.7 million residents and will pass the 10 millionmark in 2001.

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South Los Angeles and the San Gabriel Valley ranked first andsecond, respectively, with manufacturing jobs, says Jack Kyser, thenonprofit group's chief economist. The San Fernando Valleyrepresents the third-largest concentration of manufacturing jobs,he says.

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Thanks to a skilled and ample labor force—the latter factor notas common in places like Chicago—LA County will continue to thriveas a manufacturing center, Kyser adds. The labor force isconstantly replenished by a steady flow of immigrants, legal andotherwise, he observes.

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One restraint on industrial growth in the LA Basin is the lackof land for expansion, notes Cody Plott, president ofDowntown-based brokerage Colliers Seeley. The industrial vacancyrate in the LA area is already below 4% and dropping, with much ofthe space that will become available in the relatively small numberof projects slated to come online next year already leased.Theshortage of good space is forcing many manufacturers to the InlandEmpire, where land prices and wages alike are much lower, brokerPlott says.

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