Elkhart-Goshen area ranks high on national job growth list

A national economic development consultant has ranked the Elkhart area as the nation’s second-best small city for job growth.

The Elkhart-Goshen metro area ranked second out of 240 small-sized cities, defined as those having less than 150,000 jobs, up from a 65th ranking last year. The area ranked fourth among 398 cities of all sizes.

Bismarck, N.D. took the top spot among small cities. Ranking ahead of Elkhart in the “all cities” list was Bismarck, followed by San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif., and San Francisco-San Mateo-Redwood City, Calif.

“We are getting back to our rightful spot,” said Kyle Hannon, president and CEO of the Greater Elkhart Chamber of Commerce. “Elkhart is more accustomed to leading the nation in jobs. Now that we are shrugging off the final remnants of the recession, our job growth is going to continue to be impressive.”

The rankings are compiled each year on www.newgeography.com, a joint project by California-based author and Forbes.com columnist Joel Kotkin and The Praxis Strategy Group, a North Dakota-based economic development consultant.

“Any time a report lists us as a place with job growth, many companies translate that as economic activity, which captures their interest,” Hannon said. “I believe these companies put us on their list for future growth and a great place to do business. The chamber will tell them, every day, that Elkhart is a great place to do business. But they may not call us, or they may not have heard of us, until they see a report like this.”

Dorinda Heiden-Guss, president and CEO of the Economic Development Corp. of Elkhart County, agreed.

“The high ranking reflects a positive image on Elkhart County to others living outside our county,” she said. “Our No. 2 ranking reinforces recent research that Elkhart County is well positioned to attract small and mid-size companies.”

Hannon acknowledged that such high employment indicated by the ranking could actually work against the area.

“Will the company see it as a large and effective workforce or a tight labor market?” he said. “That depends on the company. But it should send a message that a new company should not be planning to under-pay.”

Kotkin called Elkhart’s ranking “miraculous” because it ranked 396th out of 398 cities in 2010.

“I think that’s the most dramatic turnaround we’ve seen in the past decade we’ve been doing this,” Kotkin said. “Indiana has some very good things going for it, including a low cost of living and a very strong pro-business environment.”

By Jeff Parrott