LJWorld.com weblogs Town Talk
New report compares Lawrence's economy to others in the region; latest numbers show local economy shrank in 2011
Watch out Cleveland, Tenn. We’re right on your heels.
What? When you think of cities similar to Lawrence, you don’t think of Cleveland, Tenn.? What’s that? You don’t think of Cleveland, Tenn. — population 42,000 people along the Ocoee River — at all. Well, by one standard, that city is our closest of kin.
The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis recently released its annual report on the size of local economies. (They call it the Gross Domestic Product for metropolitan areas, but it basically is just a measurement of all the economic activity in a community.)
I normally find the report interesting because it reminds me of something that we perhaps forget from time to time. We’re small — at least when it comes to the size of our business community.
The latest report — which measures 2011 economic activity — shows Lawrence had an economy of $3.56 billion. That ranked Lawrence 339 out of the 366 metro areas.
That’s where we are ranked currently. We won’t be ranked there long, unless we start to see a rebound. The BEA report found Lawrence’s economy actually shrank in 2011 by 1.7 percent. (Note: The BEA uses some inflation-adjusted dollars to determine if an economy has grown or shrunk. Without that inflation adjustment, we grew a bit.) The negative 1.7 percent growth rate ranked us 338 out of the 366 metro areas. We also were well below the average growth rate for a metro area, which checked in at 1.6 percent.
But back to our cousins in Cleveland. I mention them because we have the 339th largest economy in the country and Cleveland has the 338th largest. So — if like all great coaches say — you take ’em one at a time, Cleveland should be our next aspiration.
I’m, of course, just having a little bit of fun here. Cleveland and Lawrence aren’t much alike. Cleveland likely would gladly take our major research university, and Lawrence probably would take Cleveland’s batch of industrial businesses: Coca Cola, M&M Mars, Dr. Scholl’s foot products, Tappan appliances, Duracell Batteries, and something called Catnapper recliners. There are a lot of different ways to have a $3.5 billion economy.
But what is interesting about the BEA list is just how much smaller Lawrence is — at least in economic size — to several other cities that we compare ourselves to. A few that jumped out at me included Columbia, Mo. Columbia has an economy of $6.91 billion compared to Lawrence’s $3.56 billion. Even Joplin, Mo., is quite a bit bigger than Lawrence, checking in at $5.97 billion. But the one that really stuck with me was — you guessed it — Manhattan. The home of Kansas State University has an economy of $6.5 billion. Manhattan’s economy is nearly twice as large as Lawrence’s. That seems hard to believe, but that is what the numbers show. While that sinks in, here’s a look at several other cities of interest:
• Lawrence: $3.56 billion in 2011. Rank: 339
• Ames, Iowa: $4.24 billion; Rank: 309
• Austin, Texas: $90.91 billion. Rank: 34
• Boulder, Colo.: $19.35 billion. Rank 111
• Columbia, Mo.: $6.91billion. Rank 218
• Fort Collins, Colo: $12.0 billion. Rank 159
• Iowa City: $7.90 billion. Rank: 208
• Joplin, Mo.: $5.97 billion. Rank: 246
• Kansas City, Mo./Kan.: $108.1 billion. Rank 26
• Lubbock, Texas: $10.53 billion. Rank: 173
• Madison, Wis.: $36.52 billion. Rank: 63
• Manhattan: $6.5 billion. Rank: 230
• Oklahoma City: $60.99 billion. Rank: 46
• St. Joseph, Mo.: $4.67 billion. Rank: 296
• Springfield, Mo.: $15.38 billion. Rank: 133
• Topeka: $9.50 billion. Rank: 187
• Waco, Texas: $8.75 billion. Rank: 198
• Wichita: $27.36 billion. Rank: 82
As I’ve already mentioned, Lawrence did not do well in terms of its GDP growth in 2011. (There were signs of some positive economic activity in 2012 and they continue in 2013, so perhaps next year’s report will show a reversal in fortunes.) One-year growth rates always should be taken with a grain of salt, but here’s a look at some in our region:
• Lawrence: negative 1.7 percent Rank: 338
• Ames: 3.2 percent Rank: 42
• Austin: 4.4 percent. Rank: 20
• Boulder: 3.6 percent. Rank: 31
• Columbia, Mo.: 1.7 percent. Rank: 117
• Iowa City: 3.5 percent. Rank: 34
• Joplin: 0.1 percent. Rank: 234
• Kansas City: 0.0. Rank: 243
• Manhattan: 5.0 percent. Rank: 17
• Topeka: 1.0 percent. Rank: 160
• Wichita: 0.5 percent. Rank: 209
What about our cousins in Cleveland, you ask? Well, their economy grew at a 3.5 percent rate in 2011. Yes, that will make it a little more difficult to catch them, but don’t worry. We’re talking about a town that makes Coca-Cola, M&Ms candy and comfortable recliners. We’ll catch ’em because at some point they’re going to have to take a break to go to the cardiologist.