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In the aftermath of the Base Realignment and Closure initiative at Fort Knox, fears of a significant economic dropoff for the Elizabethtown Metropolitan Statistical Area appear to be unfounded.
The area fell from the top spot in personal income growth but retained a top five ranking out of 366 MSAs nationwide for 2011, lagging just behind the Clarksville, Tenn., MSA.
According to a report released by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis, the Elizabethtown MSA saw a 9.3 percent growth in total personal income, increasing from around $4.3 billion in 2010 to $4.7 billion in 2011. Income growth locally in 2011 eclipsed the national personal income growth rate of 5.2 percent.
Per capita personal income growth for the MSA also finished fifth at 8.8 percent, jumping from $35,484 to $38,597, according to the report, which analyzed a three-year period from 2009 to 2011.
Rick Games, president of the Elizabethtown-Hardin County Industrial Foundation, said the rankings are impressive and noticed by consultants as businesses look to locate in communities. The level of activity and buzz around Elizabethtown cannot be discounted, he said.
“It takes activity to get activity,” he said. “The main thing is, people are working and earning a good wage, and that’s what is important to the community.”
The 2011 national average was $41,560 for per capita personal income, for which the Elizabethtown MSA is ranked 142nd nationally, according to the report.
The rankings follow a season of sustained success as the statistical area earned top honors in personal income and gross domestic product percentage growth and been singled out by economic development organizations and publications. Forbes magazine named the MSA, which covers Hardin and LaRue counties, one of the best places for small business and careers last year.
“When you’re on top, it’s hard to stay on top,” said Hardin Judge-Executive Harry Berry, explaining the accolades create a “synergistic effect” forcing businesses and industries to stand up and take notice of the MSA. Berry said the rankings create a natural curiosity to dig deeper into what the MSA offers.
Berry said the population influx at Fort Knox spurred much of the movement, but an increase in the local industrial base and service industry has coupled with the growth on post to keep the numbers strong. Indian packaging manufacturer Flex Films has emerged as a major player and several local industries have expanded their businesses, Berry said.
“I think it’s helped to keep us at the top of the pack,” he said.
Brad Richardson, executive director of the Hardin County Chamber of Commerce, said the rankings are astounding when weighed against analyses conducted by One Knox, which indicated the numbers would fall.
“I think it’s more than we anticipated,” he said.
Richardson said the number of retirees living within the MSA is a significant factor, as is the number of retired veterans who moved here for work. Those residents combined their military retirement with a civilian or contractor salary once taking jobs with one of the higher command on post, he said.
“That’s something we didn’t think of initially,” Richardson said.
According to the report, the Odessa and Midland, Texas, MSAs saw the largest levels of personal income growth at 14.8 and 14.6 percent, respectively, generated primarily from burgeoning growth in mining and related industries. The two Texas MSAs finished first and second in per capita personal income growth at 12.4 percent and 11.9 percent.
The Clarksville, Tenn., MSA finished third in personal income growth at 9.9 percent and fourth in per capita personal income growth at 8.9 percent. The Hanford-Corcoran, Calif., MSA finished fourth in personal income growth at 9.7 percent and third in per capita personal income growth at 9.3 percent.
For the first time since 2007, personal income rose in all 366 MSAs, according to the report.
Games said the private sector is flourishing locally, particularly in manufacturing as plants continue to hire. He said he sees nothing but positives on the employment front.
“It’s a continual hiring cycle right now,” he said.
Marty Finley can be reached at (270) 505-1762 or email@example.com.