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City leads state metros in personal income

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COLUMBUS leads Indiana in per capita personal income and has moved up the national list in the past five years.

The Columbus Metropolitan Statistical Area is ranked 25th out of 381 metro areas in the country in real per capita personal income — total income divided by the total population — according to data released by the U.S. Department of Commerce.

The Columbus metro area ranked 64th in 2009, when the average per capita personal income was $42,015. By 2012, the metro area’s average per capita personal income had grown to $47,209, nearly $9,000 more than the national average, according to data provided by the bureau.

Indianapolis ranked second among Indiana metropolitan areas at No. 96 on the U.S. list, with an average personal income of $42,767 in 2012. Evansville was the third-highest-ranked Indiana city at 107 on the list.

Columbus ranks high on the list because of its manufacturing base, especially from Cummins Inc., said Jason Hester, executive director for the Columbus Economic Development Board.

“Manufacturing jobs traditionally pay higher, and we have a very strong headquarters based here,” he said. “Those are very well-paying jobs. That has traditionally kept us 10 percent above the state average.”

Hester said Columbus has added about 4,000 jobs in the past four years. Coupling new job creation with the quality and affordability of living in the area has made it an ideal place to call home, he said.

Thomas Dail, spokesman for the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, said the Columbus per capita income grew 5.84 percent in 2012, compared with the national average of 1.5 percent.

Dail said the compiled data have been available for only a short time, but the bureau plans to produce it annually in hopes that it will help communities such as Columbus.

“This is the first time that we are producing these numbers on a regular basis,” he said. “We think that by putting out these real or price adjusted measures, people are going to have a much greater understanding of people’s actual spending powers in their communities.

“That will be useful for local government, local businesses, and it could be useful for individuals,” he said.

Jan Hexamer-Gardner, co-owner of Century 21 Breeden Realtors in Columbus, said home sales are certainly reflecting an increase in spending power in the area.

“We have seen a great demand in Bartholomew County, and we think this has been triggered by all that is good that has happened with Cummins,” she said. “There is an optimism about our country, about our economy and our recovery.”

Hexamer-Gardner said people are confident the housing market isn’t risky, which is reflected in the number of homes sold and the price of those homes.

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