At the depths of the recession, about one in five Kokomo residents was without work. Now it’s closer to one in ten. But the city’s 11% unemployment rate still lags behind the state’s 9% figure. Republican mayoral candidate Scott Kern said economic development efforts have allowed large companies like automobile manufacturers – which laid off thousands as the economy soured – to bring back those who’d been pink-slipped. But Kern said it’s more positions which must be manufactured.
“Our job growth is absolutely going nowhere as far as new jobs,” Kern said. “Our foreclosure rate, we were one of three cities in Indiana to make the national statistics. So that’s some of the consideration that people take into when they look at economic development. They want to see progress. And unfortunately a lot of people right now, at least people I talk to, they’re not seeing the progress.”
Kokomo Mayor Greg Goodnight said unemployment doesn’t tell the whole story, adding that the Kokomo metro area — Howard and Tipton counties – has seen a population increase recently.
“I think there’s a lot of factors you have to look at. And I understand his job politically is to try to find cracks in the armor and I get that. But if our unemployment was going up and the number of people in the workforce was going down, that would be a horrific trend for any community. But that’s not what we’re seeing.”
Goodnight pointed to creation of a group of downtown Kokomo business owners formed with the city’s help to foster investment in the city center. Kern said if he’s elected he’ll examine whether the city should continue to fund both its own development department and the Greater Kokomo Economic Development Alliance.