I have only worked with South Central Illinois Regional Planning & Development Commission for about a month, making this post is an exciting opportunity for me to learn about the region’s economic base. The analysis section looks at three types of data in two sections at the County level from the US Bureau of Economic Analysis. The data were either examined “as is”, by comparing counties or industries against one another, or by combining them to perform regional analysis.
Before the data are described, it should be noted that the BEA will occasionally not provide a certain figure to “avoid disclosure of confidential information”. This happens when there are only a few people working in the industry or place in question, and thus a statistic about it could reveal something about their personal lives. While this did occur with some of the values for this analysis, only a few were affected. Between that and the fact that, by their very nature such figures must be small, there is no cause for concern.
The first dataset is County GDP, Gross Domestic Product, by Industry in 2001 and 2019. The two periods are analyzed both on their own, and compared then to see what changed between them, with the industries sorted into 15 groups (Table 1). Second is County total employment (i.e., a combination of full and part time jobs) from 2001 – 2019. Third is County total GDP, also from 2001 – 2019.
Over the past two decades, the regional economy has become somewhat more service based, even though industrial capacity has increased considerably (chart 1-3, table 2-3). The GDP contribution of each industry in the region (save for one) increased between 123 to 449% between the two periods, for an overall regional GDP growth of 170% (chart 1-3, table 2-3). Although the “ranking” and relative contributions of some industries changed, only one industry, utilities, contracted, contributing almost $50 million less to the regional GDP than it had in 2001.
County and Regional Comparison
The economic growth described in the previous section was concentrated in Marion and Effingham, although the other counties have also seen slow and steady growth since 2001 (chart 3). Concurrently, employment throughout the region has been either stagnant or decreasing, meaning that businesses and governments as a whole have been “doing more with less” (chart 3-5). Chart 5 specifically measures this example of economic efficiency, and shows that the most rural county of the five in the SCIRPDC area, Jasper is the clear front runner in the metric. Jasper is efficient compared to other regional entities, even the Chicago area (chart 5-6).
In economic development, rural areas are often overlooked in favor of discussing metropolitan ones, but as the analysis has demonstrated, this is a mistake. Successful development makes use of all resources available, and with careful planning, get them where they’re needed most.
Written by Joshua Harris