Economic news mostly good locally
By Amy Lavalley Post-Tribune correspondent April 29, 2013 2:24PM
Don Babcock of NIPSCO speaks during a seminar on regional economic indicators at the Harre Union Ball Room at Valparaiso University in Valparaiso, Ind. Monday April 29, 2013. | Stephanie Dowell~Post-Tribune
Updated: April 29, 2013 10:09PM
VALPARAISO — Representatives from throughout the region got an overview of the economy Monday and overall, the news was good.
Economists told those attending the program on the region’s economic trends and opportunities in the ballroom of the Harre Union on the Valparaiso University campus that the area’s economy has grown in the past year and a half, as have levels of education and household earnings.
Employment has actually dropped, with almost 7,000 fewer jobs, however, and job compensation has remained almost stagnant.
This was the second summit on the region’s economy, meant to educate people about economic conditions in Lake, Porter, LaPorte, Starke, Newton, Jasper and Pulaski counties. The first was held in November 2011, and Monday’s event was to gauge how things have changed since then.
The effort, said Tony Sindone, a continuing lecturer in economics at Purdue University North Central, brought together economists from several of the region’s colleges, as well as the Center of Workforce Innovations.
“They are modeling for us what all of us need to be doing in this region,” VU President Mark Heckler said, adding the region needs to put its differences aside. “We need to come together as one region.”
The gross regional product, or total net spending including consumers, businesses and exports, was $29.3 billion a year and a half ago and is $33.2 billion today.
While Porter County’s GRP dropped from $5.5 billion to $5.4 billion in that time frame, Lake County’s went up, from $18.2 billion to $21.9 billion.
“There’s an interesting story about Porter County. They actually had more income than spending,” Sindone said, adding residents and businesses in that count spent their dollars elsewhere.
The region’s tax base and assessed valuation also came up. Lake County’s assessed value was $20.4 billion, with a tax levy of $96 million. In Porter County, the assessed valuation was $8.5 billion, with a tax levy of $30 million.
“We are seeing an increased debt in Lake County. That is a pressure that needs to be relieved,” Sindone said.
Assessed value is an important measure because it’s one the region can influence, said Don Babcock, NIPSCO’s director of economic development, with the growth of existing businesses and bringing in new ones.
“It’s about attracting more investment. It’s a big driver for us and is a measure we can actually track,” he said, noting big-dollar projects by BP, U.S. Steel and NIPSCO. “It’s going to show up here.”