New federal data show that Michianas economy grew overall in 2014, but -- once again -- a majority of that growth took place in Elkhart County.
The five-county region produced $36.4 billion in economic output in 2014, according to the latest Bureau of Economic Analysis report on gross domestic product in metropolitan areas. That was up from $35 billion in 2013.
The regional economy is good, not great, 1st Source Bank President Jim Seitz said.
He explained that manufacturers, particularly those related to Elkhart Countys recreation vehicle industry, are prospering. Other manufacturers that support the auto and orthopedic industries are growing, too. And he added that people who work in the building trades have been busy keeping up with construction projects at the University of Notre Dame and multifamily housing complexes in the region.
We continue to make things here. We just need a little bit more, Seitz said. We would certainly like the economy to be more robust.
The GDP numbers for individual areas within the region reflect Elkhart Countys surge in manufacturing as well as other counties slow growth. GDP measures the value of goods and services produced in a place and includes everything from spending on construction, health care and entertainment to the price of manufactured items and financial services.
o The South Bend-Mishawaka area, which the federal government defines as St. Joseph County, Ind., and Cass County, Mich., is still Michianas largest economy. The area produced about $13.3 billion in GDP in 2014, up from $13 billion in 2013.
o The Elkhart-Goshen area, however, is on pace to become the regions largest economy. The area, which includes all of Elkhart County, generated about $13 billion in GDP in 2014. That was up from $12.2 billion the prior year, and most of that increase was due to manufacturing.
o Berrien County, which the federal report calls the Niles-Benton Harbor area, produced $6.3 billion in GDP in 2014 -- a slight increase from $6.1 billion in 2013.
o The Michigan City-LaPorte area, which covers the entirety of LaPorte County, produced $3.8 billion in GDP in 2014. That number was mostly unchanged from the previous year.
While the South Bend-Mishawaka area has shown slow growth in its recovery from the Great Recession, there are several major projects that should boost the areas GDP numbers for 2015 and in coming years.
For example, AM General in Mishawaka has announced several contracts to make military vehicles as well as a new partnership with Mercedes-Benz since the beginning of this year.
Also on the manufacturing front, Nello Corp. -- a company that makes steel towers for wireless communications -- is building a $60 million factory on South Bends southwest side. Another longtime South Bend manufacturer, General Sheet Metal Works, has broken ground on a $22.7 million plant northwest of South Bend International Airport. The ethanol plant on South Bends southwest side also resumed production earlier this year after Noble Americas invested almost $100 million to refurbish the facility.
Notre Dame, in association with General Electric and other partners, is building a $36 million turbomachinery facility at Ignition Park south of downtown South Bend, and a cluster of logistics firms is spending at least $31 million to build new distribution centers in AmeriPlex at Interstate 80/90 on South Bends northwest side.
Also, as 1st Source Banks Seitz mentioned, there is hundreds of millions of dollars worth of construction under way at Notre Dame, in downtown South Bend and on Mishawakas north side.
Thats going to have a considerable impact on the GDP of our region, said Scott Ford, executive director of the South Bend Department of Community Investment, but it may be another year or two before those numbers are reflected in GDP.
Elkhart County was a high-profile victim of the Great Recession, as RV purchases tanked when the economy crashed. The county has roared back on the strength of the RV industrys rebound, but business leaders are working to diversify the mix of companies there as well.
Chris Stager, vice president of retention and expansion at the Economic Development Corp. of Elkhart County, said the county has seen different types of manufacturers in food processing, packaging, the aerospace industry and electronics expand in the past few years.
We want to strongly support our RV industry, because they are carrying a lot of weight, Stager said. However, we are seeing diversification. We are seeing more companies not related to the RV industry expanding.