Three national publications have recognized the city for its economic regrowth and recovery after the national media several years ago left the area stinging over declarations such as “dying city.”

Area Development magazine gave Gold Shovel Awards to Indiana, Michigan and South Carolina for bringing in more corporate investments than any other states. Mitch Roob, Secretary of Commerce and CEO of the Indiana Economic Development Corp., said in a press statement that people are noticing 2010 was a record-setting year for economic development in Indiana.  “Receiving the Gold Shovel is a great honor, but it’s also a challenge to continue doing all we can to make Indiana the most business-friendly destination for growing companies,” Roob said.

At the top of the list for Indiana cities with the largest investments was Kokomo, which, as the listing notes, reeled in more than $1 billion from Chrysler Group LLC. Neighboring Tipton ranked No. 2 on the list for the more than $500 million Abound Solar announced it would invest to start a solar panel factory.

The city’s announcement Monday came the same day USA Today ran an article comparing Kokomo’s economic recovery to nearby Muncie.  The article reports “Kokomo was the second-largest job gainer on a percentage basis among 372 metropolitan areas in the first quarter, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data.  “Average monthly employment rose 7 percent vs. the first quarter of 2010. Just three years ago, Forbes named Kokomo among the nation’s 10 fastest-dying cities.”

Forbes, as well, has had better news to report about Kokomo since the “dying city” ranking.  The magazine boosted Kokomo’s spot for “Best Cities for Jobs” by 177 positions, placing it closer to the middle of the 398 listed Metropolitan Statistical Areas. Kokomo had previously been in the bottom 10 for the list.

“The city of Kokomo has built a reputation for facilitating a business-friendly climate and for having a talented work force,” Kokomo Mayor Goodnight said in a press statement. “These factors certainly played a role in securing the large deals we’ve seen in the past year.

“These accomplishments are not possible without a committed team of state and local leaders, economic development professionals and business partners who have contributed to our economic recovery.”

Along with the Chrysler investments, which will pay for new transmission lines in the plants, the city noted other significant investments from Delphi Electronics and Safety, Westwind Wood Specialties, Electronic Support Services, Neupath LLC and FedEx.

Debra Cook, the city’s director of development, in a press statement noted benefits from revolving loan funds, the establishment of the Riverfront District, which benefits businesses that open downtown, and changes to the tax abatement process for businesses.   “This is the direct result of our efforts to expand our offerings and work closely with business and business prospects to meet their needs,” Cook said.

Beyond making the city look good, the national attention can help bring in more companies looking to relocate or expand, said Jeb Conrad, president and CEO of the Greater Kokomo Economic Development Alliance.  Economic development officials have looked for ways to keep Kokomo in a spotlight since President Barack Obama visited the city in November, Conrad said.   “The bottom line is we’re fortunate as a community that some of that commitment from the private sector has really fueled most of those fires,” he said. “But it also is an indicator that as a community we’re doing the right things and continuing to keep that spotlight.”

CNHI News Service