Jackson County’s economy likely will experience some growth in 2016 but less than in recent years.
That forecast comes from a local economist who spoke with government and business leaders and others gathered for a luncheon Monday in Seymour.
Ryan Brewer, an assistant professor of finance at Indiana University-Purdue University Columbus, said the county’s manufacturing base and its diversified employment point to economic growth that’s neutral to slightly positive next year.
“All sectors are poised for modest growth with the exception of high-horsepower diesel, and your rising level of educational attainment also is a good sign,” Brewer said.
He said the trend of increased educational attainment definitely helps balance the county’s tight labor market, which can hurt when businesses are looking to move somewhere.
“But you do have a very skilled workforce here and an experienced workforce in manufacturing, and that’s also important,” he said. “(It’s) a bit of a gloomy forecast, I think, compared to how it’s been in the past; but I will say this: There is a robust labor force here.”
He said Jackson County has had the 12th-highest rate of population growth since 2010 in the state, and the population is now at 43,705.
“Unemployment also is now down below 3.5 percent, also an indication of strong economic growth,” Brewer said. “And the per-capita income has been improving. It’s up to almost $39,000, which is 32nd, in the top third in the state.”
Jim Plump, executive director of Jackson County Industrial Development Corp., asked Brewer if there would be any possible effects on the economy from the terrorism attacks in Paris a week-and-a-half ago.
Brewer said the terrorists attacks put things in perspective when it comes to what’s important and what’s not.
“I can see that actions that we saw in Paris could actually inspire people even more to work through this and grow with technology and innovation and mutual inspiration leaning in to have understanding,” Brewer said. “I don’t think it’s going to shut us down. It is terrible, and it’s not to be understated the effects on those families. But in terms of economics, I think it could be inspirational.”
Brewer said the United States remains pretty much the only beacon of economic hope at this time.
“We have strong growth,” he said.
The federal funds rate being zero for five straight years has helped.
“It’s not been done before, and coming off that has not been done before,” he said. “There’s some talk from the Fed that they’re going to start raising rates in December. We’ve heard this before, and so far, it’s been a bluff.”
Plump also spoke briefly about the local economy.
“2015 was another greater year,” he said. “Employment is nearing historic highs in our county.”
Plump said that, even though promised investment is down a bit, there has been a half-billion dollars in promised investment in the past four years by industries in the county.
The luncheon at The Pines Evergreen Room was organized by Jackson County Industrial Development Corp. with the help of the Greater Seymour Chamber of Commerce. The Aisin Companies of Jackson County was the primary sponsor, and The Tribune also served as a sponsor.