The Free Press, Mankato, MN


January 1, 2013

Our View: Region shows success, challenges going forward

As we close out 2012 and look ahead to 2013, the economic and social well-being of the Mankato regional community can be summarized as doing well with areas for improvement.

Many of the positives come down on the economic side of the equation as the Mankato regional economy has outperformed the national and state economy. Job growth in the Mankato/North Mankato Metropolitan Statistical Area has been ahead of other regions of the state and the state as a whole all year long.

Unemployment rates in the Mankato/North Mankato area are below state averages and far below national averages.

The consumer economy appears to be holding its own as well. Trends in Mankato retail sales appear to be up by at least the same level as national averages. Large ticket items like auto sales also show modest growth from last year. Tax collections from Mankato’s lodging tax and from its food and beverage tax are solidly ahead of last year.

Existing home sales also were ahead of last year in six of the last 11 months and down modestly in the other months. Housing starts were also up six of 11 months and very close to last year in three other months.

Commercial building has been somewhat surprising. Several new strip malls have been constructed with new retail stores locating in the market. Several new restaurants have set up shop in Mankato.

In the agricultural economy, farm prices remain solidly above last year and if agriculture land sales are any indication, there appears to be a bright future for years ahead in agriculture.

On the downside, the rate of poverty seems to be growing at an alarming rate. While figures for 2012 are not yet available, the poverty rate in Blue Earth County went from 16.7 percent in 2010 to 18.3 percent in 2011. That is above the national average of 15.9 percent and far above the Minnesota rate of 11.8 percent.

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