Kokomo’s economic growth continued to pace much of the nation in 2012, with the area’s auto industry leading the charge.
Preliminary 2012 statistics released last week by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis showed especially strong growth in the Midwestern manufacturing states, where the auto industry has rebounded.
In Kokomo, which saw its annual gross domestic product drop to $2.32 billion in 2009, the year the city’s largest employers filed for bankruptcy, the employment rate is at a five-year low.
According to the BEA, Kokomo’s GDP grew by 8.4 percent in 2012. The announcement comes hard on the heels of new employment figures showing the Kokomo metro area picking up a full percentage point in August.
Kokomo’s 2012 growth places it third in the state and eighth in the nation, according to the BEA, with only Elkhart-Goshen and Columbus growing faster in Indiana.
The turnaround is particularly sweet for a city Forbes magazine called one of the nation’s “fastest dying” areas in 2009.
“We’re working hard to improve our community and make Kokomo a better place for residents and businesses,” Kokomo Mayor Greg Goodnight said. “Our local businesses have noticed our efforts and have invested in their Kokomo facilities and workforce. These investment decisions will positively impact our community for years and decades to come.”
Chrysler Group LLC has been by far the largest contributor to Kokomo’s growth, with $1.8 billion in upgrades planned, completed or underway at area plants. The company has added nearly 2,000 jobs locally since the 2009 bankruptcy.
Alloys manufacturer Haynes International announced a $23.5-million investment to expand its manufacturing capacity, and Goodnight pointed to investments made by small business: Carney Echelbarger relocated to Kokomo and invested $700,000 in its new facility; and EAC Corp relocated to Kokomo and invested more than $200,000 in new equipment.
Kokomo added about 1,400 jobs from 2011 to 2012, according to city officials.