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Published: November 5, 2011 3:00 a.m.
City leads U.S. in job growth
Report posted on financial website
Sherry Slater | The Journal Gazette
FORT WAYNE – Fort Wayne’s metropolitan area had the fastest job growth in the past year from among the nation’s 100 largest metro areas.
Merrill Goozner, a journalist in Washington, made the discovery.
Goozner, senior correspondent for The Fiscal Times, posted the report Friday on the relatively unknown website. The online-only publication attracts hundreds of thousands of “influential” readers, including officials with Washington think tanks, he said.
Some local number-crunchers gave their blessing to Goosner’s methodology.
Valerie Richardson, a research associate at Community Research Institute at IPFW, said the jobs information “comes from one of the sources we love to use” because Labor Department data are considered accurate and dependable.
She also signed off on the calculations.
John Stafford, the institute’s director, also said the Fiscal Times rankings are based on “solid numbers.”
The job growth trend, he said, reflects gains his office has been tracking. They’ve noted hiring in the auto, education and health care sectors.
Goozner compared Labor Department jobs data for September 2011 and September 2010 to calculate the one-year change in employment. Employment increased locally by 8,000 jobs.
And those aren’t just promised jobs, like when smiling company officials announce plans to create 300 new jobs in the next five years … assuming everything goes well. No, these are genuine jobs with real people already working in them.
Also remember that’s a net increase. If … let’s say … 1,000 jobs were eliminated, then 9,000 would have had to be created to make an 8,000-job gain.
Then Goozner figured the percentage change, which showed Fort Wayne’s job growth rate was 3.9 percent. The second-ranked community, Worcester, Mass., posted a 3.2 percent growth rate.
Fort Wayne’s metropolitan statistical area, by the way, is Allen, Whitley and Wells counties.
In addition, Goozner looked at the metro area’s unemployment rate, which fell to 8.1 percent from 9.4 percent during the same time period.
Andi Udris, president of the Fort Wayne-Allen County Economic Development Alliance, was initially cautious when Goozner contacted him Thursday to break the good news and ask for comment.
Udris wondered whether the publication was reputable and worried it might have a partisan slant. After briefly vetting the organization, he granted an interview.
The Fiscal Times was founded and funded by billionaire investment banker Peter G. Peterson. Goozner described the publication as nonpartisan. The for-profit organization doesn’t endorse political candidates, but Peterson is known as an advocate for deficit reduction.
Udris said the Alliance’s data point to the non-profit organization’s most successful year yet. He credits a decision two years ago to increase the number of development directors to five from one.
Another contributing factor, he said, has been increased cooperation between elected officials, business owners and economic development officials throughout the region. IPFW’s Stafford has noticed the change, too. The groups don’t directly compete with one another anymore.
But that doesn’t stop outside groups from trying to lure away local employers.
Although the city was walloped when Navistar International Corp. decided to relocate its Fort Wayne workforce, that decision was the Alliance’s only loss this year, Udris said.
Wins include investments and expansions by General Motors Co., Vera Bradley Inc., Franklin Electric Co. Inc. and SDI La Farga LLC.
Even so, Udris acknowledged that one loss still smarts. Navistar employed about 1,400 here, including contractors, as of last year.
“And that (decision) made no economic sense,” he said of the company’s preference for moving truck and engine design to suburban Chicago, where the cost of living is higher than Fort Wayne. “They’ll find out.” SSlater
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