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Fort Wayne area’s economic diversity touted in report

Friday, January 25, 2013 - 11:13 am

Fort Wayne’s post-recession rebound – it ranked 13th among all U.S. metro areas in a recent annual job-growth survey – revealed the importance of the area’s growing economic diversity, according to a report that was released Friday.

According to the IPFW Community Research Institute’s quarterly “Allen County Insight,” presented to the County Commissioners on Friday morning by institute director John Stafford, the health-services sector added 2,500 employees from 2010 to 2012 in the three-county Fort Wayne area – the largest growth in any single sector.

The California-based Milken Institute earlier this month ranked Fort Wayne 13th among 200 large metro areas for job growth between May 2011 and May 2012, which in part reflected the addition of about 1,000 workers at the General Motors plant in southwest Allen County.

But overall manufacturing jobs – a traditional backbone of the local economy – were essentially flat in 2012, despite the addition of 12,500 non-farm jobs between 2010 and 2012, Stafford reported. In addition to health services, other areas of job growth in that two-year period included professional and businesses services (1,900 employees), transportation/warehousing and leisure/hospitality (1,600 each) and retail trades (1,400). But previous gains in manufacturing contributed to the growth in other areas, Stafford said.

Stafford’s report indicates Fort Wayne’s high-tech sector – a priority for economic development officials – also performed well in Milken’s five-year survey, ranking 15th among 200 areas.

Fort Wayne’s performance is even better when compared to similar cities. When compared with 13 other Midwestern cities in the Milken survey, only Nashville, Tenn., and Indianapolis fared better, he said.

Fourteen years ago, he said, Fort Wayne ranked above only Toledo, Ohio, and Rockford, Ill.

The slowdown in manufacturing growth is reflected in the jobless statistics as well. Although manufacturing comprises 14.4 percent of the Allen County employee base, 23.1 percent of the unemployed come from that sector.

Stafford also noted that a higher percentage of Allen County residents are employed or actively looking for work – 65.7 percent – compared with the state and nation.

That could be due to the fact that area wages continue to lag behind the national average, the report indicates.

Overall, however, Stafford said the Fort Wayne area’s “continued improvement, virtually year after year, is very encouraging ... and should gain additional attention from outside observers.”