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Highs and lows level out

March 13th, 2014

News Coverage:

Published: March 13, 2014 3:00 a.m.

Highs and lows level out

‘Quiet growth’ in region, says dynamics report

Sherry Slater | The Journal Gazette

Data suggest that northeast Indiana is in a “quiet growth phase in which businesses are not likely to announce minor hiring or (staff) reduction efforts,” local officials announced Wednesday.

The Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership and IPFW’s Community Research Institute released the 2013 Business Dynamics Report, an attempt to track business openings, closings, expansions and downsizings in specific industries in a 10-county area.

Ellen Cutter, the research institute’s director, said the recession’s dramatic highs and lows have leveled out.

“2013 was very similar to 2012. That tells us northeast Indiana has put the recession behind it and we are moving forward in a more stable pattern of growth,” she said in a statement.

Employment has been growing at a 2 percent rate in the past three years, averaging about 6,200 additional jobs each year, the report showed.

Authors of the sixth annual report acknowledge its considerable shortcomings.

Data are taken from media reports and information provided by county economic development offices. Companies that cut jobs typically don’t make public announcements about downsizings. Some employers even close without revealing an accurate count of jobs lost.

Economic conditions can cause companies to change previously announced plans. For example, an expansion project can end up being smaller or larger, depending on credit availability and other factors.

The report didn’t cite examples of companies that announced expansions last year. But among local employers that unveiled investment plans were Edy’s Grand Ice Cream, Vera Bradley and Ash Brokerage.

Companies that announced plans to close factories included Nyloncraft Inc. in Fort Wayne and Cequent Performance Products Inc. in Huntington.

The Community Research Institute disregards employment information tied to the retail, restaurant and hospitality industries, which account for a significant amount of employment in the region.

Because the jobs tend to pay low wages, officials have decided not to track their ups and downs.

John Sampson, the Regional Partnership’s president and CEO, said officials should be working to attract good jobs, not just any jobs.

“Our attention should be centered on increasing educational attainment among northeast Indiana residents in order to bring good, high-wage jobs to the region,” he said in a statement. “Attracting these jobs must be made a greater priority if northeast Indiana is to continue to reverse the decline in its per capita income and advance the region’s economy.”

Unlike previous years, this year’s report groups expansions, closings and other changes by broad industry rather than identifying each one by employer name.

Twenty-five separate events combined to add 533 net jobs in transportation equipment manufacturing, based on reports. At the other end of the spectrum, 15 events resulted in a combined loss of 78 jobs in machinery manufacturing last year in northeast Indiana.