It has been said: “There are two kinds of statistics—the kind you look up and the kind you make up.” We see a lot of statistics, whether at work, on the news or surfing the Internet. Most of the sources for this data are legitimate and credible, but sometimes the information can be skewed or perceived incorrectly.
In central Illinois, we have two amazing sources for statistical information on the local economy. The first is the Center for Business and Economic Research (CBER) at Bradley University. The CBER is directed by Dr. Bernard Goitein and performs a variety of research for local businesses, governments and non-profit groups.
The other source is within The Economic Development Council for Central Illinois (EDC). At the EDC, we collect data from several local, state and national sources on a regular basis. Most of this information on the local economy is posted on our website at www.edc.centralillinois.org. Many of you may not be aware that we also fulfill research requests, ranging from local demographics to trends and more.
The EDC also uses this information to attract site selectors and developers to the region and to give a focus to those industries that are viable for growth in the area. Currently, we project the fastest growth in the industries of transportation/logistics, healthcare, technology commercialization and manufacturing. When you look at growth industries across the nation, we closely mirror the trends, with the exception of manufacturing. Nationwide, this industry has seen trouble in recent years, but here in central Illinois, companies like Caterpillar and other manufacturers have seen significant growth, bucking the national trend.
Over the course of 2007, our local economy added more than 1,800 new jobs and maintained our low unemployment rate of 4.03 percent for the year (only a .05 percent increase from 2006). Because of our strong employment, we have avoided much of the housing crunch being felt throughout the rest of the nation. Locally, the Peoria Area Association of Realtors reported only a slight decrease of 4.6 percent through the third quarter of 2007. This decrease followed a robust market which showed significant growth for a six-year period.
We may hear about a rise in the local unemployment rate or decrease in home sales and think that our local economy is losing steam. But when you look at the big picture, central Illinois usually performs better than the national and state averages for unemployment and job growth. Regional leaders have developed a broad, diverse local economy which allows us to more easily absorb the fluctuations of the national economy. This also aids economic development. If a variety of businesses can be successful here, the likelihood of new businesses succeeding is that much greater.
With so much focus on the condition of the national economy and its local impact, you can rest assured that central Illinois is in a great position for continued growth. The EDC has a number of projects underway for 2008—we look forward to telling you more about them in the coming months. IBI