It’s easy to emphasize the pleasant present and forget a troublesome past. With a low unemployment rate and some good economic initiatives, parts of Indiana are doing well today.
However, elsewhere in our state, a weak past led to neglect of essential work to maintain resources.
It’s not different from an ordinary household. When you’ve had sustained unemployment or low wages, you don’t repair things around the house as needed or replace worn tires on the car; you just don’t have the money to do the job. You don’t save as much for retirement or other future needs. Catching up after down times is hard to do.
Today we’ll look at just three aspects of metropolitan economic growth from 2005 to 2015:
- The value of the output in the area as measured by Gross Domestic Value
- The number of wage and salary jobs
- The average compensation of employees, which includes wages, salaries and employer-paid benefits.
Let’s get right to the point: Gross Domestic Product in the Kokomo metro area (Howard County) grew by 11.4 percent compared to the nation’s 37.2 percent increase. Jobs in the Kokomo MSA were down seven percent compared to a 6.7 percent rise in the country’s 382 metro areas. Average compensation per employee for the Kokomo metropolitan statistical area was up only three percent, the worst record of all U.S. metro areas, set against the nation’s 28.8 percent increase (not adjusted for inflation).
In sum, Kokomo’s economic performance ranked 368th among the 382 metro areas for the 2005-15 period. Joining Kokomo in the 300 or lower ranks were Muncie (345th), Michigan City-LaPorte (338th), and South Bend-Mishawaka (315th). Digging out from this economic storm takes time and commitment from local and state entities.
The problems of the bottom-feeders among Indiana’s metropolitan statistical areas were not due to past or current political leadership in those places. Most major business decisions are independent of government actions.
The economic traumas of the past decade occurred in branch plant communities where national and multi-national companies moved jobs and production elsewhere like impersonal pieces on a checkerboard. Mergers and acquisitions frequently tear leadership out of long-established community involvement.
Multinational companies and foreign trade are not evil forces. Rather, states and cities need to recognize the economic perils any community can face almost anytime as private companies make changes.
Are devastating natural and economic events occurring with increasing frequency? For years the focus of economic development was forward-looking. Today there is a desire to recreate the past, to look backwards rather than toward a stronger future.
Most households and businesses carry insurance so we can recover from the damages of horrendous storms. The time is overdue to insure ourselves and our communities to go beyond recovery from future economic tornadoes and quakes. To do so, we must prepare first response teams, strengthen our redevelopment capabilities and reimagine the paths of progress.