As we begin a new year, the economy is doing well, but the business community has some challenges ahead that will hamper future growth if not addressed.
The low unemployment rate and continued migration from the region and state is putting a strain on local companies’ ability to expand and find needed talent. While investment in redevelopment and new projects is helping draw people to metro centers like Fort Wayne, other areas in the region — namely Noble, Steuben, Huntington and Wabash counties — are experiencing population declines, according to the most recent census data.
Even with some of the population gains in several northeast Indiana counties, the unemployment rate remains around 3 percent — and below 3 percent in a number of counties in the region. This means employers are looking frantically for talent and are doing everything possible to attract talent, at a time when the economy is growing and expanding at an average rate.
Whitley County is one such county. Despite Whitley seeing population growth, nevertheless local companies are struggling to find employees.
As a result of these strains, the conversations surrounding talent attraction and retention, as well as job training, will continue to be hot topics in 2018. Unfortunately, if you are tired of hearing about the debate between the need for education trades and a four-year college degree, you will likely hear additional discussion on this issue. In addition, if you think downtown development is overrated, you best have another solution to offer to growing the population, let alone retaining it.
Despite these challenges, our regional leaders have set some lofty goals and are working diligently to see them through. We commend them and we hope they succeed.
We enjoy seeing our local and regional economies thrive — and we want to keep reporting about its successes for years to come.
This first appeared in The Greater Fort Wayne Business Weekly, a sister publication of this newspaper, online at fwbusiness.com.