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Omissions narrow jobs growth report

Review covers partial list of area industries

A report issued Tuesday claims northeast Indiana’s 2012 job creation was on par with that of recent years while job loss remained well below recessionary highs.

But some obvious omissions raise questions about the report’s scope.

The Northeast Indiana 2012 Business Dynamics Report states that 130 new and existing employers announced plans to create an additional 3,770 jobs in the region. Meanwhile, 429 northeast Indiana jobs were lost in eight business closings; no layoffs were recorded.

But the report includes only public announcements made by the vehicle and medical device manufacturing, logistics, defense, insurance and food processing industries. Other industries are not included.

The report includes a disclaimer that it is not meant to be a complete picture of the region’s economic activity. The authors rely heavily on news reports, which don’t reflect all the area’s job losses because the media isn’t always alerted to downsizings.

The report also acknowledges that employers’ plans sometimes change after initial announcements.

John Stafford, director of the Community Research Institute at IPFW, said business expansions in the region have created about 3,000 new jobs each of the past five years.

In comments quoted in a news release, Stafford referred to last year’s results as “strong.” During a follow-up phone interview, he toned down his assessment to “steady.”

“Was 2012 an unusually stellar year? No,” Stafford said. “It was, as you’ve pointed out, a fairly typical year.”

For the study’s purposes, northeast Indiana includes Adams, Allen, DeKalb, Huntington, LaGrange, Noble, Steuben, Wabash, Wells and Whitley counties.

Notable omissions in the data include more than 1,000 jobs lost when Navistar International Corp. downsized its Fort Wayne workforce.

The jobs lost weren’t included in the totals because the Community Research Institute “was unable to identify specific months or respective numbers of employment being downsized during 2012,” the report states.

The document details, however, that Navistar employed about 1,400 locally as of early 2009, cut 333 jobs in 2011 and is known to have 30 employees in early 2013.

Mike Coil, bargaining chairman for United Auto Workers Local 2911, represents the former Navistar workers. He was surprised Tuesday afternoon when a reporter read that paragraph of the report to him.

“I can get them that information, but they never asked me,” he said. “That’s 1,000 jobs they missed. That makes Fort Wayne look a lot better than it is.”

Stafford said his office doesn’t contact union leaders to request information. If official company sources don’t provide numbers, the jobs lost – or created – aren’t included in that year’s report.

But it isn’t just bad news that can fall through the cracks.

Another omission is the more than 600 jobs that were created in 2012 by Parkview Health last year with the opening of Parkview Regional Medical Center, service changes at Parkview Randallia, expansion of Parkview Physicians Group and adoption of electronic medical records. Parkview Health employs more than 8,100.

Parkview spokesman Eric Clabaugh was contacted by the Community Research Institute to confirm the construction date for a new physicians’ office.

“They didn’t ask me anything about jobs created,” Clabaugh said Tuesday evening.

Clabaugh plans to contact Stafford to get Parkview’s information updated in the report.

Despite the report’s flaws, John Sampson is optimistic about the region’s performance.

The president and CEO of the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership based his view on numerous reports and economic indicators, including the 2012 Milken Institute Best-Performing Cities Index.

The Milken report, released last month, ranked the Fort Wayne metropolitan statistical area 59th of 200 cities nationwide.

The California-based Milken Institute, which describes itself as a nonprofit economic think tank, ranks U.S. metropolitan areas based on job, technology, wage and salary growth.

The three-county MSA – Allen, Wells and Whitley counties – also ranked 13th of 200 for the percentage of job growth from May 2011 to May 2012.

Sampson, whose office hired the Community Research Institute to prepare the Business Dynamics Report, said the numbers reflect the region’s economic strength – and potential for improvement.

“We haven’t arrived,” he said. “There’s so much progress to be made.”

At a glance

The following statistics on job creation were included in the Northeast Indiana 2012 Business Dynamics Report:
•10 new employers announced plans to invest $74 million and create 763 new jobs (this does not include companies that move from one county to another within northeast Indiana)
•120 existing employers announced plans to invest more than $450 million in expansions and upgrades and create 3,997 new jobs
•10 employers announced plans to close operations and eliminate 429 jobs
•Four employers announced plans to downsize and eliminate 119 jobs

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