3 Indiana cities make top 10 list for fastest-growing economies - FOX 32 News Chicago

3 Indiana cities make top 10 list for fastest-growing economies

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

At 9.2 percent, Illinois has the worst unemployment rate in the Midwest. The state added 5,600 education and health care jobs last month, but lost more than 4,000 construction jobs.

In contrast, Indiana's unemployment rate is 8.4 percent. A new U.S. Government Report found three of America's ten fastest growing local economies are right next door in northern Indiana.

The numbers come from the U.S. Commerce Department. Turns out 2012 was a very good year for manufacturing in parts of the Hoosier State that once seemed to be rusting away.

Even in the rain, people kept coming to the annual RV Open House show Thursday in Elkhart, America's capital of motor home production. After sales collapsed right along with the economy, unemployment in 2009 was the worst in America, prompting President Obama to pay a visit.

"We actually expanded our business 40,000 square feet to our facility," says Marckus Szymanowski with Alpha Systems. "It would be about a 25% increase in employment."

Elkhart's 11.4% economic growth in 2012 was actually third highest in America, according to the U.S. Commerce Department. Columbus, Indiana, at 9.6%, was number five; and Kokomo's 8.4% growth was number eight.

The Chicago area, by comparison, ranked 134th, with economic growth of 2.4%.

So far this year in Elkhart County, 14 companies have announced plans to invest $47 million and to hire 1,300 more workers. Local economic development officials see it as vindication of a conservative, pro-business approach.

"The people who take the risk, the entrepreneurs, that's who creates jobs," says Dorina Heiden-Guss, CEO of the Economic Development Corporation of Elkhart County. "And we just want to support them. And we want them to create more."

Governor Mike Pence claims Indiana's AAA credit rating, balanced budget and its recently enacted Right to Work law severely limiting union power, have lured 53 companies to the Hoosier State, with more than 6,600 new jobs.

A spokeswoman for Pence added: "Earlier this year, we passed the largest tax cut in state history, sending the signal that we mean business about growing business in Indiana. We are excited that Indiana is home to some of the fastest-growing metropolitan area economies, reinforcing that we're heading down the right road toward more jobs and prosperity for all Hoosiers"

The leader of the local AFL-CIO union federation strongly disagrees.

"I would ascribe credit to two places," Tony Flora says. "One, I think Elkhart County has been helped in the RV industry because the Federal Reserve and other parts of the federal government have followed a policy to keep interest rates very, very low."

Those low interest rates have certainly made it easier for families to buy the RV of their dreams. The AFL-CIO's Tony Flora also notes that Kokomo would be in a world of hurt if the big Chrysler plant there had shut down, something he claims Indiana's conservative leaders would have let happen, but Washington intervened.

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