The economy is a major issue in Tuesday’s Indiana primary election, but unlike the last two election cycles, the story in Indiana defies the national narrative. Beginning in 2008, politicians made Elkhart County a frequent stop to shine a light on the nation’s highest unemployment rate. President Obama made multiple stops in northern Indiana. “It’s always fun and nice to have the President of the United States visit your community,” said Greater Elkhart Chamber of Commerce President Kyle Hannon. "But it’s not great when the national media flocks in and looks for all the hard luck stories they can find… that was not much fun."
This time around, there is ample evidence of a dramatic turnaround in Elkhart County and in the state’s manufacturing sector overall. "The economy is just roaring… everybody is hiring," said Hannon, who notes that Elkhart County has been among the national leaders in adding jobs in recent years.
While United Technologies’ plans to move production out of plants in Indianapolis and Huntington to Mexico — and with it the elimination of approximately 2,100 jobs — the state’s manufacturing economy has largely been on a roll.
Companies are investing billions of dollars to expand or update Indiana operations, including a $600 million modernization at Rolls-Royce in Indianapolis and a $140 million expansion at Subaru of Indiana Automotive Inc. in Lafayette, which includes the addition of 1,200 jobs.
University of Indianapolis Associate Professor of Finance Matt Will says even with the loss of the United Technologies jobs, Indiana’s manufacturing story is a really good one. "Whenever I hear the headlines, I wonder where they (presidential candidates) are getting their data from. The manufacturing base in this state is growing twice as fast as the rest of the economy."