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INNOVATE

Inside the Emerging Economy With Millions of High-Paying Jobs

Startups and small businesses are moving into the supply chain economy.

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BY Michelle Cheng - 26 Jul 2018

Inside the Emerging Economy With Millions of High-Paying Jobs

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Manufacturing, you may have heard, is dying--but startups and small businesses across other industries are finding new ways to fuel American innovation and create jobs. Think cloud computing, software engineering, logistics, and even product design--arenas once dominated by large corporations.

"Small- and medium-size-business owners can take advantage of technology that was previously available only to large companies," says Jeremy Bodenhamer, co-founder and CEO of Santa Barbara, California-based ShipHawk, which makes and sells shipping software. He's part of a new "supply chain economy" that's creating more jobs, hiring skilled workers, and paying higher wages, according to recent research by MIT's Mercedes Delgado and Harvard's Karen Mills, former head of the Small Business Administration. Startups working in this supply chain "are innovative, and are creating an increasing number of high-wage jobs," says Mills. "These are good jobs of the future."

Just what is this supply chain?

Companies that provide "supply chain traded services" (charted above) are high-tech big names (Microsoft, Dell EMC, Box, IDEO, Frog) and startup successes (2017 Inc. 500 honorees ShipHawk, Symbia Logistics, and DirectDefense). They do work in cybersecurity, logistics, design, cloud computing, enterprise software, and both computer and traditional engineering.

A good problem to have.

Many of the highly skilled jobs these startups are creating are also highly paid--meaning expensive labor costs for business owners. But Megan Smith, CEO of Edwards, Colorado-based Symbia Logistics, isn't complaining about spending more on employees. "We're getting more skilled people," she says, "and becoming more of an employer of choice."

What makes it so great?

These companies--those selling services to businesses and government entities across regions or countries, rather than locally--create the highest-paying jobs (average wage: $85,200) and have the greatest concentration of jobs classified as science, technology, engineering, or math (19 percent, versus 6 percent of occupations in the overall U.S. economy).

Soft bounce-back.

The slight uptick in manufacturing jobs is mostly a result of overall post-crisis recovery, Mills says, cautioning, "You can't drive the whole economy on the back of 10 percent of the activity."

Source: "A New Categorization of the U.S. Economy: The Role of Supply Chain Industries in Innovation and Economic Performance" by Mercedes Delgado and Karen Mills, who also provided additional research.

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