Last week, we looked at a snapshot of the current numbers in relation to three categories: employment, education, and housing. This week, we will build upon that foundation in each of those areas and, in some cases, mention what is being done — or can be done — to improve outcomes.
It can be expected that unemployment will continue to hurt the local economy for several more years. There is considerable lag and disparity between job announcements (1,067 have been announced just so far this year) and actual payrolls. Manufacturing — one area that showed promise throughout the state last year and early this one — has sputtered and stalled once more. 72.4 percent of all firms within the county employ less than 10 employees (86.6 percent have less than 20), so it is imperative that entrepreneurship and small business ownership be nurtured, yet Indiana received a “C” and “D” in a recent Kauffman Thumbtack Small Business Survey in the categories of promoting training programs and business networking programs respectively. The Indianapolis region (the survey did not hone in on smaller cities) was ranked “C” and “F” in those two areas. Attempting to replicate the study, Grant County — our neighbor to the north — found that only 18.3 percent of area business owners identified the economy as the biggest challenge to starting a business while 30 percent said it was the lack of needed support. This is an area where Anderson could shine and differentiate itself from its neighbors, but it would take a coordinated effort on the part of all the parties that business owners must currently deal with.
In the education category, we can only attract high value-added jobs if the workforce is properly educated and our numbers here are bad — while 16.6 percent of county residents have a four-year degree or higher, 53.7 percent of those in Hamilton County do. It will take a long time to rectify this situation, but it is encouraging to see the work being done by the Madison County Education Coalition. With a strategic goal of developing a stronger linkage between economic development and education initiatives, this organization has done a lot in the short period of time they’ve been in existence.
When it comes to housing, it cannot be disputed that we have bottomed out in construction — the number of permits being issued and the amount of money they represent to the economy now nearing zero. The bad news is that the lack of new construction does not mean that the number of existing homes might not still represent a surplus if the number of homes desired in the county lessens — a condition leading to declining values. Almost 11 percent of those working within this county currently live elsewhere and travel here only for employment. Couple that with those who already work in other counties and could easily move closer to their work, and you have the possibility for home values to continue to decline.
Lest it all seem like doom and gloom, Madison County has a number of strengths that make it a great place to live and do business. Next week, it is time to examine a number of those.
Anderson University is a private Christian university of 2,600 undergraduate and graduate students in central Indiana. Anderson University continues to be recognized as one of America's top colleges by U.S. News and World Report, The Princeton Review, and Forbes. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, Anderson University offers more than 65 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business, music, nursing, and theology. The Falls School of Business is one of Anderson University’s largest academic departments offering eight undergraduate majors as well as MBA and DBA programs. The school is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP) and is a member of the Christian Business Faculty Association (CBFA).