New census estimates show Indiana experiencing modest statewide population growth since 2010 with some of the most significant increases in the Indianapolis and Fort Wayne areas. Bloomington, Lafayette and the Indiana suburbs of Louisville also saw above average gains.

The Terre Haute area lost population, but the prospect of new manufacturing jobs offer hope for reversing that trend, according to one economic development official.

Recently released figures for 2017 show an estimated 6.7 million Hoosiers, a 3.2 percent increase from the last census. 

The population of the Indianapolis metropolitan area, which now extends to such recently rural locations as Putnam and Brown counties, stands at nearly 2 million, a 7.7 percent increase. Marion County alone grew by 5 percent to an estimated 950,082 while suburban Boone, Hamilton and Hendricks counties experienced double digit increases.

Indianapolis, Minneapolis and Columbus, Ohio, are showing the strongest growth in the Midwest, according to Matt Kinghorn, senior demographic analyst with the Indiana Business Research Center at the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University Bloomington.

He credits diverse job opportunities in central Indiana. “Indianapolis isn’t tied to one industry or one set of a handful of major employers,” he said. “This really helps the Indy area.”

The Fort Wayne metro grew by 5 percent to 434,617; the Bloomington area showed a 3.5 percent increase to more than 200,000 despite losses in Greene and Owen counties; and the Lafayette area saw growth of 8.5 percent to 219,239. Clark and Floyd counties, the Jeffersonville-New Albany area, had a combined population of 194,044, an increase of 4.7 percent.

Fort Wayne, which has seen steady population increases for 15-20 years, and other growth areas also benefit from a diverse mix of employers, Kinghorn said.

Local picture

The Terre Haute metro area of Vigo, Clay, Sullivan and Vermillion counties declined by 1.3 percent to an estimated 169,965. Parke County’s population stood at an estimated 16,886, a drop of 2.3 percent.

Muncie, a city with many historical similarities to Terre Haute, is also on a downward trend, with an estimated population of 115,184, a loss of 2.1 percent.

What can Terre Haute and Muncie due to stem the tide?

“That’s a difficult question,” Kinghorn said, “but the key is to be a draw for younger adults or being able to draw new folks to the area, just having employment opportunities available.”

Vigo County has experienced a net out-migration since 2010 and a very slim natural increase in population as the number of annual births barely exceeded the number of deaths, he noted.

There are jobs to be had in the Terre Haute area in the Hoosier standby of manufacturing, said Jim Coffenberry, economic development specialist with West Central Indiana Economic Development District.

Coffenberry has seen first hand how young adults between the ages of 19 an 30 have left for Indianapolis to take advantage of high tech positions and white collar jobs. Often, he said, retired parents will move with them.

“I think that’s why some manufacturers are having issues finding employees in west-central Indiana,” Coffenberry said. “I don’t think a lot of people realize the manufacturing sector has a lot more potential than it used to to generate income … and it’s not your grubby old manufacturing anymore, either. It’s like going in and watching surgery.”

Some workers on manufacturing floors in the Terre Haute area “are approaching six figures,” he said, although acknowledging that’s with overtime.

Develop the workforce

While Indianapolis has focused on the technology industry and related jobs, Terre Haute and surrounding communities need to take advantage of their manufacturing base and make sure local residents who choose not to go to college have the skills needed to fill jobs that often find few takers, Coffenberry said.

He applauds workforce training initiatives launched by Gov. Eric Holcomb and Ivy Tech Community College. “Ivy Tech is making some real steps forward in working with industries on internships,” Coffenberry said. “And the governor’s office is doing its best to help companies that chose to do their own training.

Calling the current outlook for manufacturing “amazing,” he said companies with operations in west-central Indiana “have been holding on for quite awhile waiting for their expansion opportunities. There are a lot of companies indicating that’s going to be happening this year or soon thereafter. We have several that are indicating major investment and job creation in Clay County and some in Vigo.”

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