The Herald Bulletin

Morning Update

Annual Report: Business & Industry

March 27, 2012

Job loss, low incomes lead to population drop

Despite nation’s economic upswing, Madison County still struggling

When the economy turned south, starting in 2008, Richard Melton, owner of Star Realty, felt it in his pocketbook. And like many Madison County residents, he had to make personal sacrifices to make ends meet.

“I gave up my trips to the Caribbean. That’s where I used to go to vacation,” the former mayoral candidate said.

In fact, vacationing hasn’t really been on Melton’s agenda as he’s tried to keep his 14-year-old company afloat.

“I’ve given up a lot of free time to get through this crisis period,” he said.

Though the federal government reports that the nation is on an economic upswing, Madison County continues to struggle with a 10.2 percent unemployment rate as of December, the latest month for which figures are available. That’s one-and-a-half percentage points above the state average and nearly two points above the national average.

The City of Anderson reports personal income averages $30,627, nearly $4,000 below the statewide average.

The loss of jobs and the lower-than-average income has led to a decline in population from 133,358 in 2000 to 131,636 in 2010, according to the U.S. Census. That decline is projected to continue through 2015 when the population is expected to be around 125,000.

Melton attributes the county’s slower-than-average economic recovery to the fact that it previously was based on manufacturing and that those jobs have disappeared. But the real estate agent, who recently sold a home with a swimming pool, hot tub and three-car garage, remains optimistic.

“I really feel that there is an economic upswing coming, and I’m looking forward to it,” he said.

Though it’s too early to tell for sure, Melton may be right, if the number of people visiting one local food pantry is any indication.

Karen Scott, food pantry coordinator at Park Place Church of God, said the number of families seeking assistance in February 2012 was 1,193, up from 931 a year earlier. However, that figure was down from 1,566 in December 2011 and 1,552 in January 2012.

But Scott and pantry volunteer Joe Womack said they aren’t sure there weren’t factors at play such as the shorter month and holiday in February, and the delivery of tax refund checks.

However, Womack said, one trend has been clear over the nine years he has volunteered at the pantry: The number of people seeking assistance has risen consistently. Though the Nestle plant has picked up some workers, the area has been hit hardest by the closing of General Motors’ plants.

“You can really see the upturn starting in 2008 with the economic collapse,” the Anderson University retiree said. “We get quite a few who say I was employed for 23 years, and I never thought I’d be coming to a food pantry.”

But even those who have managed to hold on to jobs often find themselves only one paycheck away from disaster, Womack noted.

“They are so close to making it, then the car battery goes. A little crisis puts some of them under,” he said.

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Annual Report: Business & Industry
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    March 27, 2012 1 Photo

  • 0216 Welder working Ed Martin building12a.jpg Job loss, low incomes lead to population drop

    Though the federal government reports that the nation is on an economic upswing, Madison County continues to struggle with a 10.2 percent unemployment rate.

    March 27, 2012 1 Photo

  • 8 AR exit 10 3.jpg Healthy growth

    Growth along the Interstate 69 corridor has been healthy, at least for two area hospitals.

    March 27, 2012 1 Photo

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    March 27, 2012

  • 7 Jahnae_Casino_1.jpg Hoosier Park VP sees tourism driving economic turnaround

    Jahnae Erpenbach, the vice president and general manager of gaming at Hoosier Park, strongly believes that the city of Anderson and Madison County are near a turning point in the area’s economic fortunes.

    March 27, 2012 1 Photo

  • 0717 news Bank Robbery12.jpg Local banks saw a year of growth

    During 2011, banks saw modest growth, returning to the industry despite a rough year in the media spotlight.

    March 27, 2012 1 Photo

  • 0903 biz Mike Baker1a.jpg Interest in people keeps Baker banking

    Mike Baker, the regional president of North Central and Muncie regions of First Merchants Bank, entered the banking industry in 1983.

    March 27, 2012 1 Photo

  • Bright Automotive Electric Car Bright Automotive may be gone, but not the future

    There’s no question the demise of Bright Automotive represents a blow to Madison County and the hybrid-electric niche it occupies in the automotive industry. But county economic development officials aren’t willing to let the engineering expertise that existed here with Bright slip away without a fight.

    March 27, 2012 1 Photo

  • 0210 news city council 033.jpg Economic Development director on the lookout for businesses

    As the city’s economic development director, Greg Winkler’s job entails seeking companies that are looking to expand or relocate. He tries to make such companies “give Anderson a hard look.”

    March 27, 2012 1 Photo

  • 0119_The Farm Site[1].jpg City wants to bring foreign companies, jobs

    One of last year’s biggest economic development announcements in Anderson was the news that a 72-acre baseball and softball training and competition complex would be built along Interstate 69.

    March 27, 2012 1 Photo

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