Enough New Jobs In Kokomo? Mayoral Candidates Differ

Despite Kokomo’s unemployment rate inching up a tenth of a percent in July, the city’s mayor says the number doesn’t tell the whole story.

Kokomo

Photo: Dan Goldblatt/WFIU

Kokomo Mayor Greg Goodnight and mayoral candidate Scott Kern do not see eye-to-eye when it comes to lowering the city's unemployment rate.

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 nine percent figure.

Republican mayoral candidate Scott Kern says 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 says 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.”Indiana unemployment rates

Speaking on WFIU’s “Ask the Mayor,” Kokomo Mayor Greg Goodnight said unemployment does not 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,” Goodnight said.  “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.

Stan Jastrzebski

WFIU/WTIU News Senior Editor Stan Jastrzebski spent time as a reporter with WGN Radio in Chicago and as an editor at Network Indiana, an Indianapolis news service. Stan is the winner of awards from the Associated Press, the RTDNA, the Indiana Broadcasters Association and the Society of Professional Journalists. He hosts WFIU's Ask the Mayor and anchors WTIU's InFocus.

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