Alexandria Area Leads Nation in Earnings Growth
The Alexandria area led the nation in earnings growth over a recent six-month period, according to a report from a leading site selection firm.
Garner Economic LLC recently released the report measuring earnings in 372 U.S. metropolitan areas using data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The Alexandria Metropolitan Statistical Area experienced 33 percent growth in annual earnings in the six-month period through February -- tops of any MSA in the U.S.
"We knew we were doing better," said Jim Clinton, president of Central Louisiana Economic Development Alliance. "Were we surprised to see ourselves at No. 1? Yes."
The Alexandria area had an average weekly earnings of $792 in February, placing 70th in the country and ahead of some of the bigger urban areas in the country, including Miami, Pittsburgh, San Antonio, Cincinnati, Cleveland and Las Vegas.
Houma-Thiboduax ($986), New Orleans ($869) and Lake Charles ($859) placed in the top 50 among MSA's in weekly earnings.
"I think the average weekly rate was the most impressive thing to me," said CLEDA Vice President Rick Ranson.
The most exciting part, Clinton said, is the report does not include expected job gains from Sundrop Fuels and Sutherland Global Services locating operations in the area.
The gains in the report are largely a result of expansions or replacing jobs lost during the recession at companies such as Procter & Gamble, Union Tank Car and Crest Industries. Improving entrepreneurial efforts and the Fort Buhlow Bridge construction project have also contributed, Clinton said.
"If you're trying to add up the numbers to see if this is real, I think you get there pretty easy," he said. "This proves what everybody knows -- it's existing businesses that grow the economy," Ranson said. "I think this trend is going to continue. I think you're going to see existing businesses keep hiring."
With that in mind, CLEDA hired Wayne Denley, who had been working with the organization on a contract basis, this week to work full time assisting existing business and industry in the area.
A large part of the local growth ties in with a resurgence in U.S. manufacturing. An article in the Wall Street Journal this week reported that not only are U.S. companies pulling back from locating operations overseas, many are considering moving plants back to America. Interest from foreign companies in locating manufacturing operations in the U.S. is also rising, the article reported.
"The point is U.S. manufacturing is not dead," Clinton said. "Central Louisiana and Alexandria are benefiting from that, and we're poised to benefit even more."
Though CLEDA employees "did a little high-five and happy dance" when the Garner report came out, Clinton said, the area still has progress to make on major issues. Chief among those are workforce development -- though local economic developers are hopeful the creation of an upgraded community and technical college in the area will be a big step in the right direction -- and the lack of developed industrial sites.
"Before you even get to the workforce issue, you have to have a place to show them," Ranson said. "Companies now want to move quickly. They don't want to hear that you're going to build a rail spur or a sewer line for them."
The fact that we're No. 1 in this report doesn't mean we're done," Clinton said. "It was great, but it's not a slam dunk. There is still a lot of work to do."
Atlanta-based Garner Economics, headed by Jay Garner, offers site selection, research and strategic planning services.