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Columbia Missourian

Columbia ranked one of first six U.S. metro areas to reach pre-recession employment levels

By Jim Holt
June 16, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — Columbia could be one of the first cities to rebound from the recession, according to a McClatchy Newspapers article published Sunday.

Projections from economic forecaster IHS Global Insight indicate Columbia is one of six metropolitan areas across the country "expected to regain their pre-recession employment levels by the end of 2009."

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According to IHS, Columbia's unemployment rate in April 2009 was 4.8 percent.

Don Laird, president of the Columbia Chamber of Commerce, hopes not only that the projections are correct, but that they're pessimistic and recovery will take place sooner.

Bob Black, chairman of the board of directors of Regional Economic Development Inc. agreed, saying, "I think we, Columbia, will be ahead of the curve."

The survey's projections are based on how an individual economy responds to a range of factors in its recent history.

Black's prediction is based mainly on the role MU plays in Columbia. That theory is consistent with the fact that three of the other five cities in the IHO's "first six" bracket are university towns.

They are Anchorage, Alaska, Champaign-Urbana, Ill., and Laredo, Texas. The other two cities are Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, and the Houma-Bayou Cane-Thibodaux areas of Louisiana.

Black also mentioned MU's technology business incubator, which is intended to support economic development in mid-Missouri. He forecasted major grants coming to MU as well as the continuing development of Discovery Ridge, home of ABC Labs and the first research park in central Missouri.

Much of the impact of the recession has come from layoffs in manufacturing. Columbia has a lower number of manufacturing jobs compared to other cities, and, therefore, hasn't been hit as hard. .

"We do have manufacturing. It's just harder to quantify those exact numbers, seeing as how many of those workers live outside the Columbia limits," Laird said.

The McClatchy Newspapers article with the projections can be found at www.mcclatchydc.com/227/story/69823.html.