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Bloomington Faces a Mixed Economic Recovery

Downtown bloomington sign

(WFIU/WTIU News)

The Monroe County economy was hit hard at the beginning of the pandemic. But now, like in much of the state, recovery is looking different for everyone.

The Bloomington Economic Development Corporation presented its annual report on regional economic development Friday with Gov. Eric Holcomb as a special guest.  

BEDC leaders and Holcomb referred to the economic recovery as K-shaped, with some businesses coming back strong after the economy crashed, and some businesses still struggling. 

In Monroe County, reports show about 3,100 people have left the workforce entirely in the past year but BEDC business development director Clark Greiner said workforce retention has been relatively good thanks to large employers in the area.  

“Due to the outstanding management of our traded sector companies during one of the worst global pandemics in 100 years, thousands of jobs were retained and that’s a huge win for our community, region, state and country," Greiner said. 

The traded sector includes businesses and institutions that sell goods and services outside of a local region. In Monroe County this includes manufacturing, tech, and higher education. Greiner said most new jobs in the past year came from the traded sector and the healthcare sector and an expected 1,600 new jobs will enter the local market over the next several years with an average hourly wage of $22.88. 

BEDC President Jennifer Pearl said the region’s biggest challenge moving into recovery will be diversifying employment. The city and BEDC applied in September for federal CARES Act funds to build a trades district technology center for post-start-up tech companies to advance the tech district in Bloomington.

“If successful, over 10 years, the IU Public Policy Center estimates the center could create approximately 866 direct and indirect jobs and 218 million in economic impact," Pearl said. 

The US Economic Development Administration is still considering the grant application. 

Holcomb and Greiner emphasized the importance of regional collaboration on economic recovery and growth in the coming year and making communities attractive to employers. 

“To be blunt, you can’t wait for it to come to you, you have to create a really attractive environment that will entice someone to want to be part of something, hopefully bigger than themselves,” Holcomb said. 

Greiner says the BEDC plans to make an economic development strategy and a business retention, expansion, and attraction strategy for the region in the coming months.

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