The Top Ten Fastest-Growing Industries in America

10 Turbo Charged Sectors

The past ten years haven’t been the healthiest for the U.S. economy, to put it lightly. The decade began inauspiciously with the bursting of the dot-com bubble and ended in a financial crisis and a tepid recovery. But the suffering wasn’t evenly distributed. In fact many industries were created during this period, and others found their stride. The market research outfit IBISWorld released a report this month ranking the fastest growing industries over the past ten years, along with its predictions of where these industries will stand five years from now. Some sectors are more obvious than others, (we all know healthcare is a growing segment of the economy) but many are less than obvious. So if you’re looking for a little good news in these economically uncertain times, we present the 10 most turbo-charged sectors of the U.S. economy.

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3D Printer Manufacturing

3D printing has been around for about ten years, but it has only been in the past few that it has advanced enough to create serious buzz.  3D printing is the process where a single machine creates or “prints” a three-dimensional object by piling successive layers of material on top of each other. The technology was featured on the cover of the Economist last year, which argued, “The printing of parts and products has the potential to transform manufacturing because it lowers the costs and risks. No longer does a producer have to make thousands, or hundreds of thousands of items to recover his fixed costs.” This revolution may be a few years away, but the manufacturing of 3D printers is already beginning to take off. According to IBIS, “As the cost of producing these high-tech machines decreases and printer technology is refined, they will be used for an increasing number of applications, such as aerospace-related manufacturing.”

Average annual growth from 2002-2012: 8.8%

Projected average annual growth through 2017: 14.0%

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Hot Sauce Production

Hmmm, somehow the phrase “Hot-sauce magnate” just doesn’t roll off the tongue. But who knows? Maybe in 20 years Frank’s Red Hot will be as popular with Americans as Coke or Oscar Meyer. According to IBIS, the condiment is rapidly gaining popularity with the American public. “Demand for hot sauce has been driven by demographic consumption trends, immigration and international demand from the United Kingdom and Japan. As Americans’ palates have become more diverse, hot sauce has earned tenure on the dinner table.” And as Slate points out, hot sauce contains capsaicin: “People that eat lots of spicy capsaicin-rich foods build up a tolerance to it. The incentive: a small jolt of capsaicin excites the nervous system into producing endorphins, which promote a pleasant sense of well-being.” Highly addictive and delicious? You’d be a fool not to get in on the ground floor.

Average annual growth 2002-2012: 9.3%

Projected annual growth 2012-2017: 4.1%
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Generic Pharmaceutical Manufacturing

As we all know, the American population is aging, and not necessarily getting all that much richer. The answer? generic drugs. Says IBIS, “Generic drugs are sold without patent protection and tend to be cheaper than brand-name drugs, making them more attractive in the face of rising overall healthcare costs.” They add that the recent healthcare overhauls, however, may cut into drug-makers profits because private insurers will have more customers and therefore more leverage when negotiating drug prices. Still, demographic factors should more than make up for these losses.

Average annual growth 2002-2012: 9.6%

Projected growth 2012-2017: 6.3%

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Pilates & Yoga Studios

On average, Americans are expected to get fatter over the next decade, but not all of them. A dedicated minority are spending more of their income on ways to stay fit and trim, and no fitness fad is more trendy these days than yoga and pilates. And its adherents are dedicated, even in the face of economic troubles. IBIS notes, “Pilates and yoga studios were highly resistant to the recession; instead of facing negative growth in 2008 and 2009, revenue merely slowed.”

Average annual growth 2002-2012: 12.1%

Projected annual growth 2012-2017: 4.8%

For-Profit Universities

For-profit universities have come under fire in recent years for pumping students up with debt and leaving them with little to show for it. But even if some of the growth in the industry over the last decade has been debt-fueled and unsustainable, there’s no doubt that demand for post-secondary education overall will continue to grow as our economy becomes more competitive and specialized. According to IBIS, “Stepping in to alleviate the hightened demand for higher education, for-profit universities have become a common sight in education in the United States.”

Average annual growth 2002-2012: 13.6%

Projected annual growth 2012-2017: 3.6%
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Self-Tanning Product Manufacturing

The American public hasn’t been chastened by images of an orange-faced Snookie blanketing the television airwaves. Quite the opposite: the self-tanning industry has exploded in the past decade as consumers have tried to find a more healthy way to get their summer glow. And perhaps self-tanning no longer has to be synonymous with bad tanning, either. According to IBIS, ” Today’s offerings produce a more natural tan for a wider range of skin tones.”

Average annual growth 2002-2012: 22.7%

Projected annual growth 2012-2017: 10.7%
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Online Eyeglasses & Contact Lens Sales

A central economic narrative of the past decade has been the emergence of online retail as a reliable and even preferred method of shopping for Americans. And purveyors of glasses and contacts have benefitted from this shift more than most. Says IBIS, “New technologies, such as virtual try-on systems in which shoppers upload a picture to see how frames look on their faces before ordering a pair, have made customers more confident in their online purchases.”

Average annual growth 2002-2012: 28.2%

Projected annual growth 2012-2017: 8.8%


Green and Sustainable Building Construction

Though climate change is a controversial subject in some circles in America, the country as a whole has made strides towards energy-efficient construction. But this trend isn’t just about curbing greenhouse gases. Rising energy and other commodity prices have made sustainable building more cost effective, helping green and sustainable construction survive the recent downturn. Says IBIS, “the construction industries were early victims of the Great Recession, but the Green and Sustainable Building Construction industry capitalized on the green movement and weathered the downturn as well.”

Average annual growth 2002-2012: 28.9%

Projected annual growth 2012-2017: 22.8%

Solar Panel Manufacturing

The right has had a field day, or several, lambasting the Obama administration over the bankruptcy of solar panel manufacturer Solyndra, but this was just one event in a decade of mostly good news for the industry. The rising costs of fossil fuels, both in monetary and environmental terms, have driven global demand for solar power, and falling silicon prices have made the production of solar panels much more economically viable. As IBIS notes, “Without assistance, solar power generation firms would have little chance against entrenched, traditional fuel sources,” but government support in many parts of the world remains strong. And backers of solar power are in it for the long haul, in the hope that this renewable and environmentally-friendly source of energy will play an increasingly large role in powering the world economy.

Average annual growth 2002-2012: 32.3%

Projected annual growth 2012-2017: 8.2%


Social Network Game Development

This industry didn’t even exist ten years ago, so the eye-popping growth figures below should be understood with that in mind. Still, it’s hard to deny that the fusion of social networking and gaming is a phenomenon worth watching, and perhaps investing in. As IBIS puts it, “The accelerating speed and accessibility of the internet has let to skyrocketing growth for web-based industries. Over the past five years, social networks in particular have become an integral part of life for many customers, connecting them with others and helping them find a cheap alternative source of entertainment.” As gaming and social media find ways to integrate themselves further into peoples lives, it’s easy to see how they will both become an important part of the economy as well.

Average annual growth 2002-2012: 128%

Projected annual growth 2012-2017: 22%




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