A report into the public's perception of Australian manufacturing and its understanding of the industry has found that South Australians' support for manufacturing is most significant in regional areas.
The federal government's Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre (AMGC) has released its latest research into manufacturing, comparing data collected in early 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic, to today.
AMGC has contrasted the awareness and attitudes toward local manufacturing and its report showed that support is higher today compared to pre-COVID.
Ninety-four per cent of regional South Australians indicated manufacturing was important or very important, rising from 12 point over the pre-pandemic survey.
The research revealed that positive attitudes towards manufacturing rose by five per cent in metropolitan areas to 71 per cent, compared to 2019 figures.
A combined 76 per cent of South Australians viewed manufacturing as important or very important to the economy.
AMGC director for South Australia Michael Sharpe said the state had a proud heritage of manufacturing, especially in regional areas.
"AMGC understands the potential the state has to offer and has co-invested in numerous manufacturing projects," he said.
"Now is the moment to invite deeper investment into local manufacturing capability and for the successful outcomes to be shared broadly."
An industry which has been integral to regional South Australia, and linked to intrinsically to its town, is the lead smelter at Port Pirie.
It has been in continuous operation for more than 130 years and operator Nyrstar said in a statement it was "vital to the national, state and local economies, and to the Port Pirie and geographically close local communities".
It employs 800 direct employees and 300 contractors in Port Pirie, and even in the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in South Australia provided employment opportunities.
"This commitment to the local community is also highly visible through its ongoing financial support of numerous community events, sporting clubs and community groups," a company spokesperson said.
The smelter is Port Pirie's major employer and the company said it has a "long-term commitment to the region" and that it was essential for Nyrstar for the city's businesses, families and community groups to continue to thrive.
"Accordingly, Nyrstar continues investing in local recruitment, procurement, environmental and safety improvements and community sponsorships," the spokesperson said.
"This financial year alone, through its Local Procurement program Nyrstar will spend more than $80 million on sourcing goods and services in Port Pirie and the region - this is a 40 percent increase over the last two years.
"This spend on local procurement is an essential lifeline for big and small businesses in Port Pirie and helps secure additional future jobs for the Port Pirie community."
Nyrstar said its ongoing investment to deliver a sustainable business demonstrated its confidence in the long- term, secure and prosperous future of the city of Port Pirie.
A prosperous future is what Whyalla has been seeking, after news earlier this year of financial issues for steelworks owner Sanjeev Gupta's GFG Alliance.
Known as the 'Steel City', much like the smelter in Port Pirie, Whyalla's fortunes are linked with that of its famous steelworks.
Amid concerns about the future of the steelworks, Whyalla mayor Clare McLaughlin was calling for calm, an indication of how important the industry is to the town.
The steelworks employs more than 1000 people.
"Council was recently briefed by GFG on its local operations and it was extremely encouraging to hear about their profitability; the record rates of production and strong demand for their product as well as the positive attitude of their employees despite recent external speculation," she said in April.
"This is all very positive news that should give the community confidence in GFG's future in Whyalla."
The AMGC report showed 72 per cent of Australians believe manufacturing is important, or very important to the economy - up seven per cent from 2019 - with the importance of manufacturing rated more highly in regional areas.
Eighty per cent of Australians believe it is important to purchase local products where possible, while the appreciation of manufacturing and its importance increased with age, with about 85 per cent of respondents over the age of 65 agreeing that manufacturing is important to the local economy.
AMGC managing director Dr Jens Goennemann said manufacturing was far more than production.
"Manufacturing is an enabler, the capability that allows us to sustain ourselves, our communities, and our planet," he said.
"South Australia has a real opportunity to broaden its manufacturing capability, future proof its economy and increase prosperity for its residents."
He said Australian manufacturing was "transforming" and was one of the nation's most dynamic industries.
The research also revealed the public was less clear about the value and breadth of manufacturing's contribution to local jobs, economy and trade.
AMGC data estimates that manufacturing contributes more than $100 billion to the economy each year, about 10 per cent of gross domestic product, with 1.27 million Australians directly employed in the industry.