This is the second of the quarterly Regional Projects that combine work from reporters at the Linn County Leader, Chillicothe Costitution-Tribune, Kirksville Daily Express, Macon Chronicle-Herald, Moberly Monitor-Index, and Hannibal Courier-Post

Band uniforms for high schools and major colleges. Fishing reels used by professional anglers. Shock absorbers. Robes worn by U.S. athletes at the London Olympics. Industrial cables used in products that venture to outer space. T-shirts commemorating the Cardinals' 2011 World Series title. Parts used in aircraft assembled around the world.
All products of labor long since gone from the United States, memories from an evaporating manufacturing base?
Nope. Try items being manufactured in your backyard.
While a common refrain nationally is the United States' manufacturing base has eroded, that jobs are gone and never coming back, a significant piece of the northern Missouri economy continues to thrive upon these jobs and people around the globe depend on the hidden gems produced here in northern Missouri. (See page 12 of today's Linn County Leader for "Northern Missouri's Hidden Gems")
During the last decade, the number of Americans employed in manufacturing jobs tumbled from around 15.5 million in 2002 to a low of just more than 11 million in late 2009 during the most recent economic recession, according to the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Since then, however, manufacturing jobs have steadied and seen gains, recently topping more than 12 million in the U.S.
And through those difficult times, northern Missouri's manufactures have continued to account for a significant percentage of both the overall workforce and region's economy.
The reasons they've stayed while so many others have sought seemingly greener pastures overseas are numerous, according to the region's economic development leaders, including loyalty, ties to agriculture, and access to highways, waterways and rails found here in the nation's midsection.
Linn County offers a prime location for the movement of goods along the CKC Corridor that links US Highway 36 and Missouri 110 from Chicago to Kansas City.
"I am on the Blue Ribbon Citizen's Committee as one of two representatives from North Missouri," said Becky Cleveland, Brookfield IDA Director. "The committee was made to figure out how to continue to fund transportation in Missouri, which is a key part of economic development. We have needs, but how do we fund them?"
Cleveland continued: "I believe that when Highway 36 was completed four lanes across the state, people from our area and across the corridor had been trying to complete that for 50 years. It was all about connectivity. After that completion, we have the Way of American Genius, which deals with the Missouri piece of this road, and the unique character of the corridor. The 110 corridor, and the CKC corridor, opens up more opportunity."
Not to mention the fact Midwesterners have a reputation and live up to their billing.
"The work ethic is good in rural America," said Jerry Boling, operation manager of Ardent Reel in Macon, Mo. "There is a workforce in our area who want to work, and work while they are at work."
A study of eight counties - Adair, Audrain, Cooper, Linn, Livingston, Macon, Ralls and Randolph - and statistics compiled by the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center showed 6,892 people employed by one of the 177 "firms" classified as manufacturers. That figure represents about 18 percent of the workforce engaged in private industry.
In Linn County, according to the 2010 Census and data gathered from American Fact Finder, 53.6 percent of Linn County residents are employed. Linn County also has a 4.1 percent unemployment rate. Of those employed, 16.6 percent claim to work in a manufacturing job.
However, according to a 2010 workforce profile of Linn County, assembled by The Growth Services Group of Jefferson City, 913 workers were employed in manufacturing jobs. This means that 26.1 percent of Linn County residents work in manufacturing. This compares to 11.9 percent in surrounding Counties, 12.7 percent statewude, and 11.9 percent nationally.