Putting Northeast Indiana’s Jobs Situation In Perspective

December 3rd, 2013

News Coverage:

Putting Northeast Indiana's Jobs Situation In Perspective (VIDEO)

By Jeff Neumeyer - 21Alive

December 3, 2013 Updated Dec 3, 2013 at 5:31 PM EST

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (21ALIVE) --- A glimmer of hope that Northeast Indiana's economy can succeed in a tough game of playing "catch up".

There is new data that seeks to show how this area is doing compared to other cities we are competing against for jobs and wealth.

Community leaders and employers gathered on Fort Wayne's old Taylor University campus Tuesday to get a sense of how we're stacking up.

Some of the numbers from new research are not real encouraging, though there are trends headed in the right direction.

Manufacturing jobs in the 10 counties that comprise Northeast Indiana have been on the upswing, topping the 70,000 mark in 2012.

But compared to 2002, we're down close to 20,000 manufacturing positions.

That's alarming because those kinds of jobs tend to raise standard of living.

Fort Wayne Metals is doing well, but the company’s leadership is anxious about the bigger picture.

" Our wages in this area have decreased over the years, and we've been trying to move that upwards," said Scott Glaze, with Ft. Wayne Metals.

Studies commissioned by the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership show per capita income here lags behind personal income in cities like Des Moines Iowa, Roanoke Virginia and Wichita Kansas.

But in 2012, we saw change for the better.

" The numbers that just came out two weeks ago from the Bureau of Economic Analysis show that our one year growth in per capita income was 5 percent, compared to about 3 and a half percent for the state and the nation, so, that stronger growth rate, it shows that we're helping to close that gap," said Ellen Cutter, the Director of IPFW’s Community Research Institute.

Economic development officials want to continue to drive up wages locally, a key factor in retaining young people who make for an attractive workforce.

Andre Bowman, who's out of work, is trying to stay optimistic.

" I go out, I try to look, you know, I fill out applications, wait on those phone calls back. I've had many jobs, but it's finding the good jobs that matter," Bowman said.

The Regional Partnership insists it's committed to continue to measure how the local economy is doing, whether that tells a good story or a bad one.