By Mark Fischenich
---- — MANKATO — Mankato's economy grew faster than any other metropolitan area in Minnesota — a growth rate that was more rapid than all but 11 percent of metro areas nationwide in 2012, according to new statistics compiled by the U.S. Department of Commerce.
The gross domestic product for the Mankato-North Mankato metro area grew 4.1 percent last year, the 43rd fastest growth rate among 381 metro areas nationwide. The local economic growth topped all others in the state, narrowly edging the 4.0 percent GDP growth in St. Cloud (50th nationally) and the 3.9 percent in the Twin Cities (55th).
Rochester's GDP increased 3.6 percent (67th fastest nationwide).
"It's really exciting to see the economic force and vitality that we're contributing to the state," said Jonathan Zierdt, president and CEO of Greater Mankato Growth.
Staff at GMG, which serves as the chamber of commerce and economic development organization locally, will be digging into the details of the numbers, Zierdt said on Wednesday. The trade category, which includes both retail and wholesale trade, was the biggest driver in Mankato's growth among the 13 categories that make up the GDP, followed by durable goods manufacturing.
Only Duluth struggled in 2012 among Minnesota's largest communities. The port city's GDP fell 2.8 percent in 2012, ranking it 368th among the 381 American metropolitan areas. Overall, 76 metro areas saw their economies shrink with 305 growing, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis.
Along with the quartet of fast-growing Minnesota communities, two metro areas dominated by the North Dakota cities of Fargo and Grand Forks but including cross-border Minnesota towns also grew rapidly. The economy of the Fargo-Moorhead metro area grew 5.5 percent (19th nationally) and Grand Forks' grew 3.9 percent.
Nationwide, metro areas saw GDP growth of 2.5 percent last year, up from 1.7 percent in 2011.
Mankato's GDP also jumped by 4.1 percent in 2010, followed by a 2.9 percent increase in 2011.
Other statistics hinted at solid growth in the local economy in 2012 and 2013, particularly many months of strong job creation and low unemployment numbers, Zierdt said. That level of hiring strongly suggested that local employers were producing and selling goods and services at a rapid pace, and the GDP numbers confirmed it.
"It's wonderful news that we continue to see these demonstrations of the economic might of greater Mankato," he said.
While the local economy's growth is well above average, it has a long way to go to catch up to the big boys in overall size.
Mankato-North Mankato's economic activity reached $4.3 billion in 2012, the 318th largest economy in America. The New York City metro area, with an economy of nearly $1.4 trillion, is the nation's largest and the equivalent of nearly 350 Mankatos.