Monday, September 20th, 2021

Chamber, HCED positive on county economic development

Posted: Friday, December 23, 2011

Huntington County was in the news last week for what looks like a sharp increase in its unemployment rate. The reports that were released by the Indiana Department of Workforce Development showed an increase from 8.9 percent from October to a current 11.4 percent. These numbers, however, are not necessarily a reflection of the local economy.

The General Motors plant in Fort Wayne was closed the week of November 7. Many of these workers reside in Huntington County and are technically still employed during the week-long shutdown. They are counted in the unemployment numbers because they were not working, boosting the unemployment percentages.

According to Mark Wickersham, executive director of Huntington County Economic Development, “These numbers are based on the county of residence, not the county where the person is employed.” He explained that the General Motors shutdown spiked the numbers for Allen, Wells, Whitley and Huntington Counties and said, “It demonstrates again that we live in a regional economy where individuals who live in Huntington County commute to other counties for employment opportunities. As a result, we are impacted by events in other counties throughout the region - for the better sometimes and for the worse sometimes.”

Both the Huntington County Chamber of Commerce and Huntington County Economic Development are working with small and large businesses to encourage location in Huntington. Both organizations are also working at the regional level searching for job creation opportunities that affect all the surrounding counties as this creates more opportunities for Huntington County residents to seek employment.

The Chamber of Commerce completed 18 ribbon cuttings in 2011 opening new or restructured businesses in Huntington County. Of the 18 ribbons cuttings, 11 were new businesses to the area. The Chamber also has a ribbon cutting scheduled for Saturday, January 14 at the new Parkview Medical Plaza, the twelfth new business to open in 2011 in Huntington.

Steve Kimmel, executive director of the Chamber of Commerce, said, “The Chamber is receiving inquiries from entrepreneurs looking to start new businesses in Huntington in the coming year, one is currently in the process of opening in the first quarter of 2012.” He continued, “Huntington County is a sought after location to start a business and the available workforce makes it even more desirable, I see good things happening currently and expect growth to continue.”

Huntington County Economic Development reports show that since the recession began in 2008, Huntington County has continued to have business investments of $129,307,736. Included in those dollars, Huntington has had 1,184 new jobs developed, 1,935 jobs retained, 27 business expansions, 11 attractions for a total of 38 completed projects in the county. The county has had 13 industrial expansion announcements in 2011, specifically, that account for more than $32 million worth of new capital investments.

Wickersham and Kimmel think the high unemployment rate is just temporary and believe the next report will show significant improvement in the numbers. Neither the Chamber nor HCED have received any notice from any local employers of major layoffs. They are focused on doing everything possible to promote the area and the opportunities that are available to those looking to start or locate a business in Huntington County.

Kimmel said, “We also focus on providing support to existing businesses and work to meet their needs in the form of advocacy, business advice, employees and continuing education, networking opportunities and more. Also, our support to new businesses is key to their success.”