ANDERSON — It has been close to four decades since the exodus of General Motors from Anderson, and although progress has been made, there is still a long road ahead.

That was the message delivered to the Anderson Rotary Club on Tuesday by Greg Winkler, executive director of the Anderson Economic Development Department.

Winkler said the city’s unemployment rate over the past six years has narrowed the gap between the trends at the national and state levels.

He said in June 2012 the city’s unemployment rate was 12.2%; in June of this year, it was down to 4.1%.

“Historically our employment rate was higher than the nation, state and Madison County,” Winkler said. “The reduction starting in 2016 was the result of a plan and strategy.

“Our job is to drive opportunities to bring job expansion and redevelopment,” he said. “We’re reaching that point. We’re becoming healthy as far as our community goes when we reach the same numbers as the county, state and nation.”

For the period from 2012 to 2018, the city has seen investments of $669.9 million and the creation of 2,395 jobs, according to Winkler.

“We’re starting to replace the jobs when General Motors left Anderson,” he said. “The wages locally are starting to increase.”

He said the living wage in Anderson is $15.65 per hour, which means many residents are struggling.

“Companies are starting to pay higher,” Winkler said. “The city is getting close to an hourly range of $22 to $24 per hour which is considered the living wage.”

Responding to a question about how many of the newly created jobs are being filled by city residents, Winkler said approximately 65% live in Madison County.

He said the problem is that people are encountering difficulties finding housing in Anderson.

“Housing is starting to come into southern Madison County,” Winkler continued. “There is a shortage of quality homes in the $250,000 to $300,000 price range.”

Winkler said currently there is a cash balance of $27 million in tax increment financing (TIF) revenues and $21 million available.

“We’re at the point where we can start doing significant projects,” he said.

The city needs to demolish 1,000 abandoned houses and rehab another 1,000 in the future, Winkler said.

“We’re ready to start addressing the quality of life issues like blight,” he said. “This has been a deliberate process of management of the available TIF funds.”

The city is looking at investments of $250 million to $300 million in infrastructure improvements to enhance the quality of life.

Winkler said income tax revenues going to the city have increased from $9.3 million in 2014 to an estimated $11.7 million in 2020.

Follow Ken de la Bastide on Twitter @KendelaBastide, or call 765-640-4863.

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