SOUTH BEND — Indiana had a record year for new job announcements in 2017 with commitments for more than 30,000 new jobs were secured, according to Gov. Eric Holcomb and the Indiana Economic Development Corporation. Unemployment hovered below 4 percent in the state and counties in our region.
There are more than 3.1 million people working in our state. That’s about 370,000 more than were working at the low point of the recession in July 2009. For 100 straight months, the number of people working has increased as our region numbers mirror the state.
Per capita personal income in our region grew at more than double the national average in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, while per capita personal income in 2016 was $42,946, up from $33,160 in 2010.
We continue to lag behind the national average in per capita personal income. Our region’s is only 87 percent of the national average, but we’ve made significant progress. In 2010, we were only 82 percent of the national average. Increasing wages, low unemployment and high employment should have us all optimistic about 2018.
Construction in 2017 also has us optimistic about 2018. The number of projects either announced, started or recently completed is significant. This is arguably the busiest we’ve seen the construction industry in some time. But will we see some slow down in the economy? We don’t think so, at least not in the short term.
Industry experts are predicting a rise in deal volume in 2018. Despite rising costs and labor concerns, those experts indicated there is no slowdown in sight and that a prosperous 2018 should be expected. Let’s hope they are right.
So, how do we keep the momentum?
Next month, a new regional economic development plan will be released. The plan is centered around industry growth, entrepreneurship, attracting talent, education and workforce, and diversity and inclusion. The plan is a follow-up to those developed as part of the Regional Cities process.
Our economic development teams will be on the road telling the story of our region, visiting 12 states for 28 different events or meetings. At the same time, others will hear about the great progress here and reach out to us as they consider whether this is the right spot for the next phase of their business. Many will visit our community to understand more.
This is where we all have an important role to play. Our businesses, cities, towns, neighborhoods, families, schools, churches, civic groups and social groups all play a key role. Each is an important voice in our effort to attract new people and businesses. When people ask, make sure they know you are excited. Maybe reach out to others in your address book and tell them they should come see what’s happening here. We’re in the middle of a big comeback, and it’s taken many people to change our direction. It will take many more to make sure we stay on the right path.
Jeff Rea is president and CEO of the South Bend Regional Chamber of Commerce. He can be reached at email@example.com.