Manufacturing jobs a boon to Huntington County

Source: Indiana Economic Digest, 12/9/14, and Rick Bannan, Huntington Herald-Press

The per capita income of Huntington County has seen a steady increase over the last four years, thanks to manufacturing jobs in the county.

Northeast Indiana Works Director of Communications Rick Farrant said that compared to the national average for per capita income, Huntington County is growing right along with the nation rising nearly a percentage point from 2009 to 2013 where the most recent data stops.

"It's important to note that Huntington County continues to grow...and is growing at or faster than the national per-capita income," Farrant said.

Huntington County Economic Development Executive Director Mark Wickersham said that manufacturing companies like Bendix and United Technologies have helped in employing county residents while also increasing the average wage of workers.

Wickersham said that the wages for the jobs created by manufacturers in 2014 were well over double the federal minimum wage. He said the standard by which manufacturing jobs are judged is by hourly wage as opposed to salary.

"Specific to the projects, the average hourly wage per individual job created was $18.84 an hour," Wickersham said. "The average hourly wage per project was $16.68 an hour."

Wickersham said that the pay was roughly a 1.5 percent increase from 2013. He said the increase was on par with increases of the last three years.

"We went through a decline (in income) in 2008 through 2010," Wickersham explained, "And then we started rebounding in 2011."

"From 2012-2013 we probably had the largest (increase) in one year," Wickersham remarked, saying the income level rose nearly three percent in northeast Indiana.

Wickersham explained that income data is separated by business sector, as in education, retail, agriculture or manufacturing among others. He said that according to data from the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership, the manufacturing sector has the most impact on income in Huntington County.

"All the sectors are growing and contributing," Wickersham said, "But the sector that seems to have the most direct relationship in the largest increase is manufacturing."

Wickersham said that during 2014 there have been 15 different industrial projects in Huntington County. He said the largest employer is United Technologies which Wickersham said employs roughly 790 workers and was involved with two of the 15 projects. He also mentioned Bendix Corp. which in its project created 22 new jobs for the county. Novae Corp. was also responsible with job growth by adding 75 positions to the county's workforce.

According to information from the Huntington County Auditor's office the county approved nearly two dozen tax abatements on real property in the last year.

Abatements give companies like Bendix a break on property tax in order to let them move in or expand their business in the county.

Wickersham said that past worries of rampant unemployment are largely a thing of the past.

"The idea that there's high unemployment and no end in sight, that's behind us," Wickersham said. He mentioned that the county has recovered from nearly 15 percent unemployment to under five percent.

"If you look at a 25-year unemployment rate average ... the rate was 5.8 percent," Wickersham said. "At this point at 4.9 (percent) we're a full percentage point below that."

"Things are certainly getting better," Wickersham remarked.