• Align employment and wage growth around the priority sectors of advanced manufacturing and health & life sciences.
  • Invest and improve regional infrastructure that will support innovation, new business start-ups and expansion of existing business.
  • Increase alignment between skills/credentials and future jobs with a focus on building cradle to career, early childhood education through 14/16 education system.
  • Create a unified regional marketing platform to consistently communicate our value proposition to all target audiences.
  • Initiate coordinated community-wide support and efforts to plan and implement solutions to raise at risk residents to self-sufficiency.
  • Accelerate the development and adoption of policy, systems, and environmental changes that support healthy habits, built environment and supports for active living, and a culture of health in target audiences.

Please contact our Community Development team at 812-423-2020 to have a full copy of the Community Economic Development Strategy.

Executive Summary and Talent 2025 Overview

The consolidated initiative is called Talent 2025, which will track over time the economic performance of our region along with helping to craft the critical strategies and identify the tactical opportunities that will change our region while meticulously measuring their results.  For the purpose of the CEDS, the Evansville region is defined as the Evansville metropolitan statistical area (MSA) plus Gibson County, Indiana.

The objective of the initiative is two-fold:

1. Identify key “performance indicators” and track the economic and social progress of the region

2. Establish long term goals that can help prioritize and focus regional growth.

One of the primary goals for the initiative is to change behavior from reactionary to pro-active by helping public and private sector community leaders more fully understand how to move the needle forward rather than simply reacting to whatever regional or national ranking said about our region. 

We started the process utilizing in-depth research data in order to determine the exact development indicators that will track the progress of our region and to identify areas of strategic importance to Southwest Indiana.  By comparing Southwest Indiana and the Evansville region to other areas and learning from their successes and failures, Southwest Indiana can improve its efforts in business attraction and retention as well as withstand future economic shifts or changes.

An in-depth analysis as to how Southwest Indiana’s economy was performing prior to the 2008/2009 financial crisis was a key benchmark; and, Talent 2025 provides an excellent timeline with both encouraging and trying news for the region.  The good news is that the region is doing better than is sometimes portrayed, particularly on measures of tradable industry presence.  Southwest Indiana does have serious challenges in population and employment, growth, wages, educational attainment and health, which tests future prosperity.

Using a wide range of variables related to the regional population, economy, infrastructure, and quality of place, Southwest Indiana identified the following metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) as peer regions for the Evansville, IN-Henderson, KY MSA region:

•          Chattanooga, TN-GA MSA

•          Davenport-Moline-Rock Island, IA-IL MSA

•          Fort Wayne, IN MSA

•          Green Bay, WI MSA

•          Roanoke, VA MSA

•          Spartanburg, SC MSA

The aspirational peer metro areas of the Evansville region are:

•          Grand Rapids-Wyoming, MI MSA

•          Greenville-Anderson-Mauldin, SC MSA

•          Huntsville, AL MSA

•          Omaha-Council Bluffs, NE-IA MSA

Chmura identified as well a set of 32 development indicators in demographic, economic, human capital, and social categories in comparison to its peers and aspirational peers such as population size, manufacturing employment share, cost of living, rail miles and number of museums for example.  To more clearly focus future strategies, eight (8) development indicators were identified as essential metrics for the economic and social development of the region and are included in a regional scorecard (see Evansville Economic Indicator Initiative attached).

It should be noted that there were three primary screens applied in selecting the eight key indicators as well:

  1. Were the indicators critical to successful economic development (growth, prosperity, inclusion and resilience)? 

2.   Was the data for each indicator reliable (from valid sources)?

3.   Could the data for each indicator be sourced across peer and aspirational regions?

These eight key metrics are:

•          Population growth

•          Young adult population

•          Poverty rate

•          Employment growth

•          Average annual wage

•          Bachelor’s degree or higher

•          Cost of Living

•          Overall health index

The Eight Metrics

The first metric is population growth, which is important as an indicator of an expanding economy and vibrant community.  Population also forms the basis for the labor shed and new investment tends to flow to areas with population growth.

The age of the population is important as well due to its social and economic implications making young adult population, ages 20 to 34, a sought after component for long-term sustainable development.  One of the reasons this age group was chosen is because this group is reported directly to the Census and can be compared to peer communities.

Poverty levels are closely related to household income and can be indicators of income distribution as two regions can have very similar or identical median or average household income but very different levels of poverty.  High poverty levels are usually associated with low bachelor’s degree attainment, which poses challenges for workforce development.  A high poverty rate also implies a greater level of community resources needed to address the issue.

Employment size and growth is the broadest and timeliest indicator of a region’s overall economic health; and, a growing employment base creates more opportunities for residents and helps to grow the population.  Employment growth are widely used and accepted as indicators for how a region is performing.

Since a significant portion of household income comes from the labor force, the average annual wages of a region affect a variety of demographics like household income, housing market, quality of life and other socioeconomic indicators.  Understanding the average annual wage is important in helping us achieve the region’s goals and raise the standard of living.  It’s not all about jobs but improving the overall quality of life for the residents of Southwest Indiana.

When considering human capital, educational attainment has multiple implications for the region’s workforce and sustainable development.  Highly-educated workers, the first education metric, are those with bachelor’s degrees, having multiple skills that can be adapted in a variety of business sectors; and, are more flexibility in their ability to adapt to the ever-changing market landscape.  In terms of development, well-educated talent can help to attract cutting-edge technologies and the high-paying, high-tech jobs associated with their level of skill.  A more highly-educated individual can also drive increased entrepreneurship and innovation.

The second educational attainment metric that will be measured will be high school graduation rates, which is an indicator of the region’s public-school delivery systems and has important implications for talent development.  Many of Southwest Indiana’s business sectors, especially those that do not require a college degree, rely on high school graduates as their main supply for talent.  Colleges such as Ivy Tech Community College and Vincennes University also rely upon that talent pool to improve skills.  Bottom line, a higher high school graduation rate implies more students are prepared to enter the labor force or continue to college.

Cost of living is another important economic and social indicators with implications for business attraction and population migration.  Though it is important to evaluate all of the various metrics to evaluate the economic health of our region, a low cost of living can help Southwest Indiana be more competitive and allow for young adults who are priced out of high-cost areas to purchase homes and start businesses.

Last, but certainly not least, is the physical health of the community.  The overall health index is a composite index that includes a wide range of health-related indicators.  At the broadest level, it looks at health outcomes and health factors with four specific indicators that when moved will leverage the greatest level of opportunity for change: premature death, low birthweight, tobacco use along with diet and exercise.  Businesses like to invest in communities with healthy populations, which can dramatically impact productivity and overall healthcare costs.

There were key findings when comparing the Evansville region with its peers across all 32 indicators:

•          Demographically, the Evansville region lags in terms of population growth, median household income, and poverty, and disability, but performs better in labor force participation for disabled workers.

•          For most economic indicators such as employment growth, average annual wage, unemployment rate, labor force participation rate, and GDP growth, the Evansville region is similar to many of its peer regions. The region performs better than its peers in terms of patents per- capita, but lags in airport enplanements.

•          In terms of human capital indicators, the Evansville region underperforms its peers in the proportion of the adult population with bachelor’s or higher degrees but performs better in early childhood education. While the high school graduation rate of the Evansville region was only slightly lower than its comparison regions, the recent trend, dragged down by Vanderburgh County, is concerning.

•          The Evansville region performs better in several social indicators, including lower cost of living and lower home costs. However, the region has higher obesity and a lower overall health index.

Comparing the Evansville region with its aspirational peer regions:

•          The Evansville region underperforms its aspirational peers in most demographic indicators such as population growth, median age, poverty, and median income.

•          The Evansville region lags its aspirational peers in major economic indicators such as employment growth, average annual wage, GDP growth rate, patents, and airport enplanements.

•          The Evansville region generally underperforms its aspirational peers in human capital indicators, including fewer degree awards per capita and having a lower proportion of the population with bachelor’s degrees. However, Evansville does have a higher rate of early childhood education.

•          In terms of social indicators, the Evansville region exceeds its aspirational peers in cost of living and median home values, but lags in building permits and overall health.

•          The Evansville region is similar to its aspirational peers in indicators such as the unemployment rate, percent of business establishments that are small businesses, and percent of households owning homes.

For aspirational peers, in addition to the above metrics, Chmura also examined the historical growth performance of metro areas to identify fast-growing regions.  More specifically, Chmura evaluated population, employment, and average annual wage growth of all metro areas since 2005 to take into consideration an anomalies that might have occurred prior to the 2008/2009 recession. The identified aspirational peer regions are similar to Evansville in the metrics such as industry structure and percent of establishments that are small businesses, but registered healthy population and job growth in that time span.

Chmura used the 32 variables to construct a composite index that measures how similar each MSA in the nation is to the Evansville region. In calculating this composite index, each indicator was assigned a weight based on input from community leaders on how they align with regional development goals.

Due to the selection criteria of aspirational peers to be fast growing regions, it is not surprising that the Evansville region underperforms its aspirational peers in many indicators. For most demographic indicators such as population growth, median age, poverty, and median household income, the Evansville region lagged its aspirational peers.  It also lagged in some major economic indicators such as employment growth, average annual wage, GDP growth, patents, and airport enplanements. It performs better than aspirational regions in several human capital and social indicators, such as early childhood education, low cost of living and lower home costs. The Evansville region is similar to its aspirational peers in indicators such as the unemployment rate, percentage of small businesses, home ownership, and health insurance.

Compared to its peer regions, the Evansville region performs better in a wide range of indicators, including more patents per capita, a higher rate of early childhood education, lower cost of living, and lower home costs. However, Evansville lagged its peers in population growth, median household income, poverty rate, bachelor’s degree attainment, and overall health index.  For most economic indicators, such as employment growth, average annual wage, and GDP growth, the Evansville region is similar to its peer regions.

The overall findings from identifying like regions and benchmarking the Evansville region’s performance against these peers is that the economy of the region is on par with its peers.  The region experienced job growth, wage and GDP growth; and, the region had a much lower unemployment rate in recent years.

Below are the Talent 2025 Goals, focusing on population growth, poverty, employment and wage growth, educational attainment, health outcomes and cost of living.  The consolidated strategic priorities are specifically tied to the goals, which in turn will help to drive tactical opportunities for the region.

From the SWOT analysis, data evaluation and community collaborative efforts, six (6) TALENT 2025 Consolidated Strategic Priorities will drive the region’s economic prosperity highlighted by the region’s two key business sectors, i.e. advanced manufacturing and health/life sciences as well as address advocacy, transportation, digital infrastructure and quality of place initiatives.

  • Align employment and wage growth around the priority sectors of advanced manufacturing and health & life sciences.
  • Invest and improve regional infrastructure that will support innovation, new business start-ups and expansion of existing business.
  • Increase alignment between skills/credentials and future jobs with a focus on building cradle to career, early childhood education through 14/16 education system.
  • Create a unified regional marketing platform to consistently communicate our value proposition to all target audiences.
  • Initiate coordinated community-wide support and efforts to plan and implement solutions to raise at risk residents to self-sufficiency.
  • Accelerate the development and adoption of policy, systems, and environmental changes that support healthy habits, built environment and supports for active living, and a culture of health in target audiences.

Conclusion

Like any region in the country, there are some other underlying concerns that economic development alone may not solve, including high poverty, low bachelor’s degree attainment and health-related outcomes.  Strong measurable strategies and tactical opportunities around the eight key indicators will allow Southwest Indiana to maximize prosperity and respond to economic forces such as globalization, technological change and demographic transition. 

Talent 2025 is specifically designed to help the public and private sectors, along with the region’s strong non-profit sector, to task their respective organizations, communities and companies to make a better Southwest Indiana.  Talent 2025 will require community leaders to come together to encourage the long- term growth of the region; and, we are well on our way to move the Greater Evansville forward.

Executive Summary and Talent 2025 Overview

The Economic Development Coalition of Southwest Indiana has been working in collaboration with five regional organizations (Evansville Regional Business Committee, Welborn Foundation, United Way of Southwest Indiana, Growth Alliance of Greater Evansville and the Southwest Indiana Chamber) on the development of a unique regional Community Economic Development Strategy (CEDS).  The two-stage process began in 2018 with the an analysis called Development Indicators for the Evansville Region prepared by Chmura Economics & Analytics to identify a list of development indicators for the Evansville region, benchmark those indicators against peer and aspirational peer regions.  The next step was development of the Employment and Wage Growth Workstream – Trends, Scenarios, and Indicators, which became the backbone strategy for the region’s five-year strategic direction. 

The consolidated initiative is called Talent 2025, which will track over time the economic performance of our region along with helping to craft the critical strategies and identify the tactical opportunities that will change our region while meticulously measuring their results.  For the purpose of the CEDS, the Evansville region is defined as the Evansville metropolitan statistical area (MSA) plus Gibson County, Indiana.

The objective of the initiative is two-fold:

1. Identify key “performance indicators” and track the economic and social progress of the region

2. Establish long term goals that can help prioritize and focus regional growth.

One of the primary goals for the initiative is to change behavior from reactionary to pro-active by helping public and private sector community leaders more fully understand how to move the needle forward rather than simply reacting to whatever regional or national ranking said about our region. 

We started the process utilizing in-depth research data in order to determine the exact development indicators that will track the progress of our region and to identify areas of strategic importance to Southwest Indiana.  By comparing Southwest Indiana and the Evansville region to other areas and learning from their successes and failures, Southwest Indiana can improve its efforts in business attraction and retention as well as withstand future economic shifts or changes.

An in-depth analysis as to how Southwest Indiana’s economy was performing prior to the 2008/2009 financial crisis was a key benchmark; and, Talent 2025 provides an excellent timeline with both encouraging and trying news for the region.  The good news is that the region is doing better than is sometimes portrayed, particularly on measures of tradable industry presence.  Southwest Indiana does have serious challenges in population and employment, growth, wages, educational attainment and health, which tests future prosperity.

Using a wide range of variables related to the regional population, economy, infrastructure, and quality of place, Southwest Indiana identified the following metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) as peer regions for the Evansville, IN-Henderson, KY MSA region:

•          Chattanooga, TN-GA MSA

•          Davenport-Moline-Rock Island, IA-IL MSA

•          Fort Wayne, IN MSA

•          Green Bay, WI MSA

•          Roanoke, VA MSA

•          Spartanburg, SC MSA

The aspirational peer metro areas of the Evansville region are:

•          Grand Rapids-Wyoming, MI MSA

•          Greenville-Anderson-Mauldin, SC MSA

•          Huntsville, AL MSA

•          Omaha-Council Bluffs, NE-IA MSA

Chmura identified as well a set of 32 development indicators in demographic, economic, human capital, and social categories in comparison to its peers and aspirational peers such as population size, manufacturing employment share, cost of living, rail miles and number of museums for example.  To more clearly focus future strategies, eight (8) development indicators were identified as essential metrics for the economic and social development of the region and are included in a regional scorecard (see Evansville Economic Indicator Initiative attached).

It should be noted that there were three primary screens applied in selecting the eight key indicators as well:

  1. Were the indicators critical to successful economic development (growth, prosperity, inclusion and resilience)? 

2.   Was the data for each indicator reliable (from valid sources)?

3.   Could the data for each indicator be sourced across peer and aspirational regions?

These eight key metrics are:

•          Population growth

•          Young adult population

•          Poverty rate

•          Employment growth

•          Average annual wage

•          Bachelor’s degree or higher

•          Cost of Living

•          Overall health index

The Eight Metrics

The first metric is population growth, which is important as an indicator of an expanding economy and vibrant community.  Population also forms the basis for the labor shed and new investment tends to flow to areas with population growth.

The age of the population is important as well due to its social and economic implications making young adult population, ages 20 to 34, a sought after component for long-term sustainable development.  One of the reasons this age group was chosen is because this group is reported directly to the Census and can be compared to peer communities.

Poverty levels are closely related to household income and can be indicators of income distribution as two regions can have very similar or identical median or average household income but very different levels of poverty.  High poverty levels are usually associated with low bachelor’s degree attainment, which poses challenges for workforce development.  A high poverty rate also implies a greater level of community resources needed to address the issue.

Employment size and growth is the broadest and timeliest indicator of a region’s overall economic health; and, a growing employment base creates more opportunities for residents and helps to grow the population.  Employment growth are widely used and accepted as indicators for how a region is performing.

Since a significant portion of household income comes from the labor force, the average annual wages of a region affect a variety of demographics like household income, housing market, quality of life and other socioeconomic indicators.  Understanding the average annual wage is important in helping us achieve the region’s goals and raise the standard of living.  It’s not all about jobs but improving the overall quality of life for the residents of Southwest Indiana.

When considering human capital, educational attainment has multiple implications for the region’s workforce and sustainable development.  Highly-educated workers, the first education metric, are those with bachelor’s degrees, having multiple skills that can be adapted in a variety of business sectors; and, are more flexibility in their ability to adapt to the ever-changing market landscape.  In terms of development, well-educated talent can help to attract cutting-edge technologies and the high-paying, high-tech jobs associated with their level of skill.  A more highly-educated individual can also drive increased entrepreneurship and innovation.

The second educational attainment metric that will be measured will be high school graduation rates, which is an indicator of the region’s public-school delivery systems and has important implications for talent development.  Many of Southwest Indiana’s business sectors, especially those that do not require a college degree, rely on high school graduates as their main supply for talent.  Colleges such as Ivy Tech Community College and Vincennes University also rely upon that talent pool to improve skills.  Bottom line, a higher high school graduation rate implies more students are prepared to enter the labor force or continue to college.

Cost of living is another important economic and social indicators with implications for business attraction and population migration.  Though it is important to evaluate all of the various metrics to evaluate the economic health of our region, a low cost of living can help Southwest Indiana be more competitive and allow for young adults who are priced out of high-cost areas to purchase homes and start businesses.

Last, but certainly not least, is the physical health of the community.  The overall health index is a composite index that includes a wide range of health-related indicators.  At the broadest level, it looks at health outcomes and health factors with four specific indicators that when moved will leverage the greatest level of opportunity for change: premature death, low birthweight, tobacco use along with diet and exercise.  Businesses like to invest in communities with healthy populations, which can dramatically impact productivity and overall healthcare costs.

There were key findings when comparing the Evansville region with its peers across all 32 indicators:

•          Demographically, the Evansville region lags in terms of population growth, median household income, and poverty, and disability, but performs better in labor force participation for disabled workers.

•          For most economic indicators such as employment growth, average annual wage, unemployment rate, labor force participation rate, and GDP growth, the Evansville region is similar to many of its peer regions. The region performs better than its peers in terms of patents per- capita, but lags in airport enplanements.

•          In terms of human capital indicators, the Evansville region underperforms its peers in the proportion of the adult population with bachelor’s or higher degrees but performs better in early childhood education. While the high school graduation rate of the Evansville region was only slightly lower than its comparison regions, the recent trend, dragged down by Vanderburgh County, is concerning.

•          The Evansville region performs better in several social indicators, including lower cost of living and lower home costs. However, the region has higher obesity and a lower overall health index.

Comparing the Evansville region with its aspirational peer regions:

•          The Evansville region underperforms its aspirational peers in most demographic indicators such as population growth, median age, poverty, and median income.

•          The Evansville region lags its aspirational peers in major economic indicators such as employment growth, average annual wage, GDP growth rate, patents, and airport enplanements.

•          The Evansville region generally underperforms its aspirational peers in human capital indicators, including fewer degree awards per capita and having a lower proportion of the population with bachelor’s degrees. However, Evansville does have a higher rate of early childhood education.

•          In terms of social indicators, the Evansville region exceeds its aspirational peers in cost of living and median home values, but lags in building permits and overall health.

•          The Evansville region is similar to its aspirational peers in indicators such as the unemployment rate, percent of business establishments that are small businesses, and percent of households owning homes.

For aspirational peers, in addition to the above metrics, Chmura also examined the historical growth performance of metro areas to identify fast-growing regions.  More specifically, Chmura evaluated population, employment, and average annual wage growth of all metro areas since 2005 to take into consideration an anomalies that might have occurred prior to the 2008/2009 recession. The identified aspirational peer regions are similar to Evansville in the metrics such as industry structure and percent of establishments that are small businesses, but registered healthy population and job growth in that time span.

Chmura used the 32 variables to construct a composite index that measures how similar each MSA in the nation is to the Evansville region. In calculating this composite index, each indicator was assigned a weight based on input from community leaders on how they align with regional development goals.

Due to the selection criteria of aspirational peers to be fast growing regions, it is not surprising that the Evansville region underperforms its aspirational peers in many indicators. For most demographic indicators such as population growth, median age, poverty, and median household income, the Evansville region lagged its aspirational peers.  It also lagged in some major economic indicators such as employment growth, average annual wage, GDP growth, patents, and airport enplanements. It performs better than aspirational regions in several human capital and social indicators, such as early childhood education, low cost of living and lower home costs. The Evansville region is similar to its aspirational peers in indicators such as the unemployment rate, percentage of small businesses, home ownership, and health insurance.

Compared to its peer regions, the Evansville region performs better in a wide range of indicators, including more patents per capita, a higher rate of early childhood education, lower cost of living, and lower home costs. However, Evansville lagged its peers in population growth, median household income, poverty rate, bachelor’s degree attainment, and overall health index.  For most economic indicators, such as employment growth, average annual wage, and GDP growth, the Evansville region is similar to its peer regions.

The overall findings from identifying like regions and benchmarking the Evansville region’s performance against these peers is that the economy of the region is on par with its peers.  The region experienced job growth, wage and GDP growth; and, the region had a much lower unemployment rate in recent years.

Below are the Talent 2025 Goals, focusing on population growth, poverty, employment and wage growth, educational attainment, health outcomes and cost of living.  The consolidated strategic priorities are specifically tied to the goals, which in turn will help to drive tactical opportunities for the region.

From the SWOT analysis, data evaluation and community collaborative efforts, six (6) TALENT 2025 Consolidated Strategic Priorities will drive the region’s economic prosperity highlighted by the region’s two key business sectors, i.e. advanced manufacturing and health/life sciences as well as address advocacy, transportation, digital infrastructure and quality of place initiatives.

  • Align employment and wage growth around the priority sectors of advanced manufacturing and health & life sciences.
  • Invest and improve regional infrastructure that will support innovation, new business start-ups and expansion of existing business.
  • Increase alignment between skills/credentials and future jobs with a focus on building cradle to career, early childhood education through 14/16 education system.
  • Create a unified regional marketing platform to consistently communicate our value proposition to all target audiences.
  • Initiate coordinated community-wide support and efforts to plan and implement solutions to raise at risk residents to self-sufficiency.
  • Accelerate the development and adoption of policy, systems, and environmental changes that support healthy habits, built environment and supports for active living, and a culture of health in target audiences.

Conclusion

Like any region in the country, there are some other underlying concerns that economic development alone may not solve, including high poverty, low bachelor’s degree attainment and health-related outcomes.  Strong measurable strategies and tactical opportunities around the eight key indicators will allow Southwest Indiana to maximize prosperity and respond to economic forces such as globalization, technological change and demographic transition. 

Talent 2025 is specifically designed to help the public and private sectors, along with the region’s strong non-profit sector, to task their respective organizations, communities and companies to make a better Southwest Indiana.  Talent 2025 will require community leaders to come together to encourage the long- term growth of the region; and, we are well on our way to move the Greater Evansville forward.

The consolidated initiative is called Talent 2025, which will track over time the economic performance of our region along with helping to craft the critical strategies and identify the tactical opportunities that will change our region while meticulously measuring their results.  For the purpose of the CEDS, the Evansville region is defined as the Evansville metropolitan statistical area (MSA) plus Gibson County, Indiana.

The objective of the initiative is two-fold:

1. Identify key “performance indicators” and track the economic and social progress of the region

2. Establish long term goals that can help prioritize and focus regional growth.

One of the primary goals for the initiative is to change behavior from reactionary to pro-active by helping public and private sector community leaders more fully understand how to move the needle forward rather than simply reacting to whatever regional or national ranking said about our region. 

We started the process utilizing in-depth research data in order to determine the exact development indicators that will track the progress of our region and to identify areas of strategic importance to Southwest Indiana.  By comparing Southwest Indiana and the Evansville region to other areas and learning from their successes and failures, Southwest Indiana can improve its efforts in business attraction and retention as well as withstand future economic shifts or changes.

An in-depth analysis as to how Southwest Indiana’s economy was performing prior to the 2008/2009 financial crisis was a key benchmark; and, Talent 2025 provides an excellent timeline with both encouraging and trying news for the region.  The good news is that the region is doing better than is sometimes portrayed, particularly on measures of tradable industry presence.  Southwest Indiana does have serious challenges in population and employment, growth, wages, educational attainment and health, which tests future prosperity.

Using a wide range of variables related to the regional population, economy, infrastructure, and quality of place, Southwest Indiana identified the following metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) as peer regions for the Evansville, IN-Henderson, KY MSA region:

•          Chattanooga, TN-GA MSA

•          Davenport-Moline-Rock Island, IA-IL MSA

•          Fort Wayne, IN MSA

•          Green Bay, WI MSA

•          Roanoke, VA MSA

•          Spartanburg, SC MSA

The aspirational peer metro areas of the Evansville region are:

•          Grand Rapids-Wyoming, MI MSA

•          Greenville-Anderson-Mauldin, SC MSA

•          Huntsville, AL MSA

•          Omaha-Council Bluffs, NE-IA MSA

Chmura identified as well a set of 32 development indicators in demographic, economic, human capital, and social categories in comparison to its peers and aspirational peers such as population size, manufacturing employment share, cost of living, rail miles and number of museums for example.  To more clearly focus future strategies, eight (8) development indicators were identified as essential metrics for the economic and social development of the region and are included in a regional scorecard (see Evansville Economic Indicator Initiative attached).

It should be noted that there were three primary screens applied in selecting the eight key indicators as well:

  1. Were the indicators critical to successful economic development (growth, prosperity, inclusion and resilience)? 

2.   Was the data for each indicator reliable (from valid sources)?

3.   Could the data for each indicator be sourced across peer and aspirational regions?

These eight key metrics are:

•          Population growth

•          Young adult population

•          Poverty rate

•          Employment growth

•          Average annual wage

•          Bachelor’s degree or higher

•          Cost of Living

•          Overall health index

The Eight Metrics

The first metric is population growth, which is important as an indicator of an expanding economy and vibrant community.  Population also forms the basis for the labor shed and new investment tends to flow to areas with population growth.

The age of the population is important as well due to its social and economic implications making young adult population, ages 20 to 34, a sought after component for long-term sustainable development.  One of the reasons this age group was chosen is because this group is reported directly to the Census and can be compared to peer communities.

Poverty levels are closely related to household income and can be indicators of income distribution as two regions can have very similar or identical median or average household income but very different levels of poverty.  High poverty levels are usually associated with low bachelor’s degree attainment, which poses challenges for workforce development.  A high poverty rate also implies a greater level of community resources needed to address the issue.

Employment size and growth is the broadest and timeliest indicator of a region’s overall economic health; and, a growing employment base creates more opportunities for residents and helps to grow the population.  Employment growth are widely used and accepted as indicators for how a region is performing.

Since a significant portion of household income comes from the labor force, the average annual wages of a region affect a variety of demographics like household income, housing market, quality of life and other socioeconomic indicators.  Understanding the average annual wage is important in helping us achieve the region’s goals and raise the standard of living.  It’s not all about jobs but improving the overall quality of life for the residents of Southwest Indiana.

When considering human capital, educational attainment has multiple implications for the region’s workforce and sustainable development.  Highly-educated workers, the first education metric, are those with bachelor’s degrees, having multiple skills that can be adapted in a variety of business sectors; and, are more flexibility in their ability to adapt to the ever-changing market landscape.  In terms of development, well-educated talent can help to attract cutting-edge technologies and the high-paying, high-tech jobs associated with their level of skill.  A more highly-educated individual can also drive increased entrepreneurship and innovation.

The second educational attainment metric that will be measured will be high school graduation rates, which is an indicator of the region’s public-school delivery systems and has important implications for talent development.  Many of Southwest Indiana’s business sectors, especially those that do not require a college degree, rely on high school graduates as their main supply for talent.  Colleges such as Ivy Tech Community College and Vincennes University also rely upon that talent pool to improve skills.  Bottom line, a higher high school graduation rate implies more students are prepared to enter the labor force or continue to college.

Cost of living is another important economic and social indicators with implications for business attraction and population migration.  Though it is important to evaluate all of the various metrics to evaluate the economic health of our region, a low cost of living can help Southwest Indiana be more competitive and allow for young adults who are priced out of high-cost areas to purchase homes and start businesses.

Last, but certainly not least, is the physical health of the community.  The overall health index is a composite index that includes a wide range of health-related indicators.  At the broadest level, it looks at health outcomes and health factors with four specific indicators that when moved will leverage the greatest level of opportunity for change: premature death, low birthweight, tobacco use along with diet and exercise.  Businesses like to invest in communities with healthy populations, which can dramatically impact productivity and overall healthcare costs.

There were key findings when comparing the Evansville region with its peers across all 32 indicators:

•          Demographically, the Evansville region lags in terms of population growth, median household income, and poverty, and disability, but performs better in labor force participation for disabled workers.

•          For most economic indicators such as employment growth, average annual wage, unemployment rate, labor force participation rate, and GDP growth, the Evansville region is similar to many of its peer regions. The region performs better than its peers in terms of patents per- capita, but lags in airport enplanements.

•          In terms of human capital indicators, the Evansville region underperforms its peers in the proportion of the adult population with bachelor’s or higher degrees but performs better in early childhood education. While the high school graduation rate of the Evansville region was only slightly lower than its comparison regions, the recent trend, dragged down by Vanderburgh County, is concerning.

•          The Evansville region performs better in several social indicators, including lower cost of living and lower home costs. However, the region has higher obesity and a lower overall health index.

Comparing the Evansville region with its aspirational peer regions:

•          The Evansville region underperforms its aspirational peers in most demographic indicators such as population growth, median age, poverty, and median income.

•          The Evansville region lags its aspirational peers in major economic indicators such as employment growth, average annual wage, GDP growth rate, patents, and airport enplanements.

•          The Evansville region generally underperforms its aspirational peers in human capital indicators, including fewer degree awards per capita and having a lower proportion of the population with bachelor’s degrees. However, Evansville does have a higher rate of early childhood education.

•          In terms of social indicators, the Evansville region exceeds its aspirational peers in cost of living and median home values, but lags in building permits and overall health.

•          The Evansville region is similar to its aspirational peers in indicators such as the unemployment rate, percent of business establishments that are small businesses, and percent of households owning homes.

For aspirational peers, in addition to the above metrics, Chmura also examined the historical growth performance of metro areas to identify fast-growing regions.  More specifically, Chmura evaluated population, employment, and average annual wage growth of all metro areas since 2005 to take into consideration an anomalies that might have occurred prior to the 2008/2009 recession. The identified aspirational peer regions are similar to Evansville in the metrics such as industry structure and percent of establishments that are small businesses, but registered healthy population and job growth in that time span.

Chmura used the 32 variables to construct a composite index that measures how similar each MSA in the nation is to the Evansville region. In calculating this composite index, each indicator was assigned a weight based on input from community leaders on how they align with regional development goals.

Due to the selection criteria of aspirational peers to be fast growing regions, it is not surprising that the Evansville region underperforms its aspirational peers in many indicators. For most demographic indicators such as population growth, median age, poverty, and median household income, the Evansville region lagged its aspirational peers.  It also lagged in some major economic indicators such as employment growth, average annual wage, GDP growth, patents, and airport enplanements. It performs better than aspirational regions in several human capital and social indicators, such as early childhood education, low cost of living and lower home costs. The Evansville region is similar to its aspirational peers in indicators such as the unemployment rate, percentage of small businesses, home ownership, and health insurance.

Compared to its peer regions, the Evansville region performs better in a wide range of indicators, including more patents per capita, a higher rate of early childhood education, lower cost of living, and lower home costs. However, Evansville lagged its peers in population growth, median household income, poverty rate, bachelor’s degree attainment, and overall health index.  For most economic indicators, such as employment growth, average annual wage, and GDP growth, the Evansville region is similar to its peer regions.

The overall findings from identifying like regions and benchmarking the Evansville region’s performance against these peers is that the economy of the region is on par with its peers.  The region experienced job growth, wage and GDP growth; and, the region had a much lower unemployment rate in recent years.

Below are the Talent 2025 Goals, focusing on population growth, poverty, employment and wage growth, educational attainment, health outcomes and cost of living.  The consolidated strategic priorities are specifically tied to the goals, which in turn will help to drive tactical opportunities for the region.

From the SWOT analysis, data evaluation and community collaborative efforts, six (6) TALENT 2025 Consolidated Strategic Priorities will drive the region’s economic prosperity highlighted by the region’s two key business sectors, i.e. advanced manufacturing and health/life sciences as well as address advocacy, transportation, digital infrastructure and quality of place initiatives.

  • Align employment and wage growth around the priority sectors of advanced manufacturing and health & life sciences.
  • Invest and improve regional infrastructure that will support innovation, new business start-ups and expansion of existing business.
  • Increase alignment between skills/credentials and future jobs with a focus on building cradle to career, early childhood education through 14/16 education system.
  • Create a unified regional marketing platform to consistently communicate our value proposition to all target audiences.
  • Initiate coordinated community-wide support and efforts to plan and implement solutions to raise at risk residents to self-sufficiency.
  • Accelerate the development and adoption of policy, systems, and environmental changes that support healthy habits, built environment and supports for active living, and a culture of health in target audiences.

Conclusion

Like any region in the country, there are some other underlying concerns that economic development alone may not solve, including high poverty, low bachelor’s degree attainment and health-related outcomes.  Strong measurable strategies and tactical opportunities around the eight key indicators will allow Southwest Indiana to maximize prosperity and respond to economic forces such as globalization, technological change and demographic transition. 

Talent 2025 is specifically designed to help the public and private sectors, along with the region’s strong non-profit sector, to task their respective organizations, communities and companies to make a better Southwest Indiana.  Talent 2025 will require community leaders to come together to encourage the long- term growth of the region; and, we are well on our way to move the Greater Evansville forward.