The headlines in 2009 may have focused on the looming plant closing in Owensboro of GE, Hon, and West Irving Die Casting, the numbers reflect a mix of good and bad news for 2009.
Overall, the impact of the recession in Owensboro has not been good, but it was far worse in other places. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Owensboro lost 1,400 jobs, a decline in overall employment of around 1.6 percent. Yet, this loss is less than Bowling Green, which lost 3,500 jobs and Evansville, which lost over 5,000.
Unemployment has been at its highest point in 20 years, but 8.9 percent (12 month) rate has hovered right around the national average most of the year and has never been as high as the Kentucky rate through the two years of the recession. Compared with Owensboro's 10 peer regions, Owensboro has ranked in the middle of the pack.
Existing industry projects were a bright spot in 2009. The EDC worked 16 projects that resulted in over 500 new jobs and over $90 million in new investment. The year also saw eight new technology-based businesses locate in Owensboro with average salaries at three times the per capita income level of the Owensboro metro region. The city reports that business licenses increased 4.3 percent and occupational tax receipts rose 1.4 percent.
With large numbers of layoffs, workforce retraining programs were a hot item and critically important for 2009. GRADD reports $2.5 million in retraining funds supporting 461 displaced workers.
The EDC worked 22 qualified new industry leads in 2009 from three coordinated marketing campaigns. These translated to five industrial projects with the potential of 400 jobs and $80 million in new investment-- a couple of the projects will remain active in 2010. The economic development office also reported an average of 1,100 web hits to its website per month in 2009, down approximately 100 from last year due to the recession.