The Herald Bulletin

November 22, 2013

Anderson, Kokomo top state in economic growth

Local economy climbed 2 percent in 2013

By Ken de la Bastide
The Herald Bulletin

---- — Anderson is one of two Indiana cities that experienced accelerated economic growth from 2012 to 2013, according to a national study.

The study released through the U.S. Conference of Mayors and performed by IHS Global Insight showed only Anderson and Kokomo had a significant upturn in economic activity.

The study found Anderson’s 2013 growth is 2 percent higher compared to a 1.6 percent growth rate in 2012, and Kokomo’s growth rate for the same period was 2.2 percent as compared to 1.6 percent.

Both cities are expected to see economic growth in 2014.

The IHS Global Insight study showed slowing economies for 2013 in Bloomington, Muncie, Fort Wayne, Indianapolis, Lafayette and Terre Haute.

The economic outlook for 2014 is anticipating growth in all Indiana cities except for Muncie, the study predicted.

The report said drags on the economy included the shutdown of the federal government, across-the-board federal spending cuts and slow growth in European economies.

Bob Tomarelli, an economist with IHS Global Insight, said the study looks at a total of all goods and services that are in a metropolitan area.

“We’ve seen nice growth in the Midwest and the South in the transportation sector,” he said.

Tomarelli said the shutdown of the federal government and the sequestration had a national impact, which was felt more in the areas around Washington, D.C.

Anderson and Kokomo had accelerated growth as compared to other areas of the state that did show some economic growth from 2012 to 2013.

Anderson’s growth of 2 percent for 2013 is expected to remain at that level in 2014. The Kokomo growth is expected to climb from 2 to 4.7 percent in 2014.

“For Anderson I think this is a great encouragement that we have been able to pick up the pace of diversification and new investments to a point where we have accelerated past many other Hoosier communities,” Anderson Mayor Kevin Smith said Thursday. “The report talks about the potential that Anderson has.”

Smith said there is a contrast between the economics of Kokomo and Anderson that were similar 20 years ago, but today are different.

“One is clearly post sole supported by the automotive industry economy like Anderson and the other is Kokomo, which continues to be supported by traditional automotive companies,” he said.

Smith said Anderson is looking to change its affiliation to join metropolitan Indianapolis in image and growth.

“The reality is we were moving there anyway,” he said. “We made the shift identity-wise and work product-wise. Many of the leads the city is working on have connections directly to high-level decision makers and companies that have some connection in Indianapolis.”

Greg Winkler, director of economic development for Anderson, said at the beginning of Smith’s term in office the No. 1 job was to create forward progress and some energy and life.

“We wanted to identify the deals, close the deals and get the jobs and investment here,” he said. "As we build relationships with companies here, we want to attract those companies that have relationships with those already here.”

Winkler said the city has found a niche in the food and beverage industry.

“For a company with intensive water and power needs and where distribution to the market is critical, we can be competitive nationally,” he said. “We’re following up with some of those companies.”

Kokomo Mayor Greg Goodnight said he was a little surprised by the IHS Global Insight report.

The Kokomo economy was bolstered by an announcement of a $1.2 billion investment by Chrysler in the region that will add up to 1,250 jobs in the manufacturing of transmissions.

“It shows we’re going in the right direction,” he said. “There are a lot of different ways to gauge things, but this puts us in a positive light.”

Follow Ken de la Bastide @KendelaBastide on Twitter, or call 640-4863.