At the Kosciusko County Redevelopment Committee meeting on May 8, KEDCo President George Robertson had plenty to report on economic growth and the Biomet-Zimmer merger.
“We are still on an upward trend in the first quarter,” said Robertson. He reported the employment was going up and unemployment was going down.
“People think the second quarter will be a little better,” he continued. “We tend to agree with that.”
Robertson also presented 2012 U.S. Census data showing that per capita growth in Koscisuko County was among the best in the state. Robertson stated that the county saw an approximately 3.9 percent per capita growth that year.
“The numbers indicate the GDP is slowly moving up,” he said.
“Wage levels are among the best in the state,” said Robertson. He stated that average hourly rate was around $24 an hour. That is significantly higher than neighboring counties.
“Our job is to create jobs that are what we call ‘mortgage-able.'” he said, meaning the jobs created allow workers to buy houses and support families. “We’re getting good paying jobs in this county.”
The committee brought up the recent announcement of Zimmer’s plan to purchase Biomet. Robertson did not expect the buyout to have a profound effect on the local economy.
“I expect there will be some dislocation, but I expect some of the other companies will be picking up some talented workers,” he said. “Any short term locations will be minor.”
“Indiana is one of the few states that has a professional network. You can actually look statewide to see where there’s an opening,” continued Robertson. “We hope as many as they can find something in Kosciusko County.”
“The loss of talent is what we don’t want,” said Robertson in regards to other medical device manufacturers advertising job openings in Kosciusko County’s local papers. The sentiment, both from Robertson and the commission, is that most, if not all, of the workers dislocated by the buyout will continue to work for local companies.
Regarding Biomet’s recent request for a tax abatement, he said the proposed expansion and creation of more than 150 new jobs is up in the air. “I’ve asked the people at Biomet about the expansion, and they don’t know right now,” he said.
In other news, committeeman Max Courtney stated he was planning a “good practices” trip to Lafayette in the near future and invited any interested commissioners to join him. The purpose of the trip is to see what other redevelopment commissions are doing and to bring those ideas back to Kosciusko County.
Finally, the committee was given a draft of the new TIF Budget plan. Board members were asked to review it. The Kosciusko County Commissioners will need to review the plan before it can be approved.