Local jobs are on the way

Experts predict new employers, hiring will mark 2014


BY JAMES LAWSON
jlawson@kenoshanews.com

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The jobs are coming. The jobs are coming.

Just be patient, economic experts urge.

The promise of new jobs created by relocations, expansions and new industrial developments is expected to make Kenosha County an attractive place to find work. The question is: How long will it take?

There is some debate. Some experts say the components needed for a regional economic recovery are being set into place. However, as much as it takes to put together a well-planned chess game, it will take time to put all the right pieces into position.

Looking good

Some experts are optimistic and foresee rewards in the coming year.

“I’m looking for a good 2014,” said Dennis Winters, chief labor economist with the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development. “It will be a shot in the arm for the region. There will be many jobs that pay pretty well.”

Winters believes the jobs proposed by some of the companies that relocated to Kenosha County — such as Emco Chemical Distributors and Hanna Cylinders — coupled with the expansions of operations, such as Rust-Oleum, will make a big difference. Amazon.com is planning a project near the Interstate that could bring a projected 1,600 new jobs. Those jobs will create the need for even more jobs.

“There will be a multiplier effect,” Winters explained. “Let’s say if you earn $100 and then you spend $50 of it in the local community for services, then that business will go out and hire more people to accommodate the increased business. It will create a ripple effect through the economy.”

By the numbers

On Wednesday the Bureau of Labor Statistics said Wisconsin ranked 37th in private-sector job growth over the 12-month period that ended in June. Nationally, private-sector growth was 1.9 percent. It was 1 percent in Wisconsin. Wisconsin added 23,963 jobs over the 12-month period.

Statewide, the not-seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for October was 5.7 percent. Seasonally adjusted, it was 6.5 percent. In Kenosha County, the non-seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for October was 7.7 percent. In nearby Racine County, the rate was 7.9 percent.

“The near future will be better,” forecasted economic adviser Yuri Maltsev, a Carthage College professor.

He believes the upcoming year will be better because of an overall improvement in the national and local economies. He also believes the future is bright because of Kenosha County’s proximity to Chicago and Milwaukee.

A reason for optimism

Arthur Cyr, director of Carthage College’s Clausen Center for World Business, also is optimistic. He foresees a brighter local industrial environment for several reasons.

“My guess is we’ll have relatively strong growth in the future,” he said.

In terms of large up and down economic swings, Kenosha County is somewhat insulated. “We don’t have dramatic growth or declines because of diversification (of industry types),” he said.

Cyr attributes that to wise decisions made by local officials.

“Years ago, Kenosha leaders directly addressed the dilemmas of a declining population and tax base, directly resulting from the shrinking of the automobile manufacturing industry in the community,” Cyr said. “One very practical step taken was to emphasize small companies.”

Kenosha County is in the right place for growth. Cyr noted that transportation routes are an important asset.

“One-half of the nation’s truck traffic goes through the Chicago-Milwaukee area. This region (Chicago-Milwaukee corridor) is the third or fifth largest intermodal port. There’s easy access to rail, truck and water traffic,” he said.

So why now? James McGibany, executive associate dean with Marquette University, has some opinions.

“My guess is a better business climate in Wisconsin coupled with a deteriorating and uncertain business/state fiscal climate in Illinois contributed at least some to this — as did reasonably good health of the banking system to allow for the financing,” he said. “When you add those to the already established infrastructure, that may help explain why here and why now.”

A hub of activity

Among the businesses bringing jobs to Kenosha County is Amazon. On Nov. 1, the global retail giant announced that a new distribution and order fulfillment center will be built in Kenosha. Roughly 1,600 jobs are projected, with more as a result of regional economic ripple effects.

Festival Foods has opened a large store, and mixed-merchandise retailer Meijer will open in 2014.

Meanwhile, Rust-Oleum has expanded its manufacturing plant and is expanding its warehouse facilities to accommodate its growing businesses.

And several relocations have helped to expand job potential in Kenosha County. Among them:

n Konecranes, an electronics manufacturer.n Ta Chen, a metals company.n L&M Corrugated Container Corp., a manufacturer of corrugated packaging.

“Having easy access to I-94 (which gives easy access to O’Hare and Mitchell airports) is one of the big issues for the Amazon facility,” McGibany said. “Others being available land and to some extent the labor force in the area.”

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