Columbus stays stable despite rough economy

Residents of Columbus say the city has remained steady, despite the economy.

Columbus has truly been a bright spot in Indiana during these tough economic times. The city has actually been growing, when other towns have struggled.

Families say they come to Columbus for a reason.

"No matter how big it is, it's still a small town," said resident Brandy Foster. "It's a close-knit community and it's a good place to raise your kids."

"It's a very historic town, too," added Keyla Collins, "with the art and everything and I really like that."

Inspired and nationally recognized architectural design in Columbus reflects an inspired optimism for the city's future.

Manufacturing comprises much of the job base. Cummins, which makes engines, is city's the largest employer. But unlike other industry-based communities, Columbus has still seen recent growth.

In fact, employment here has grown more quickly and unemployment fallen more quickly than the state average.

"We haven't been hurt badly as far as the economic downturn goes. We've stayed pretty stable here," said resident Mike Butler.

"I don't know a lot of people that are out of work or that have been laid off or let go because of the economy," Foster said.

But the engine that drives the economy in Columbus did just take a hit. Citing weak economic data and uncertainty in the direction of the global economy, Cummins announced this week that it's lowered its revenue forecast. The company also plans to cut around 1,500 jobs worldwide by the end of 2012.

"It's always disappointing to see employment drop, but it's also...Cummins is a very big company. We've seen them cycle a number of times before and they cycle back," said Bartholomew County resident Steve Rucker.

"Usually, Cummins comes up with another project and, from what I know of, from people who work for Cummins, they just bring them back into the fold," Butler said.

But voters in Columbus still have concerns as the election nears.

"I think the national debt. Public debt is just unthinkably high, so I plan to vote with that in mind," Rucker said.

"I firmly disagree with the fact that federal government belongs in our medical care system," Butler said.

"Something that concerns me, I'm close to my grandma and she's constantly worried about her Medicare and Social Security. Nationally, I'd like to see, you know, the economy get better," Foster said. "Locally, I think we're good. I think we're lucky."

Ben Whitaker, a store manager at Hoosier Sporting Goods in downtown Columbus, moved to the city 12 years ago. He has his own opinions on the city's economy and his hopes for the November election.

"I had heard, growing up in Indianapolis, that Columbus was a really super nice place to raise a family and still be able to have that big city access," he said. "We love where we live. We love our neighbors, something you don't get in the big city."

On the economy:

"If you look around, with Cummins and as well as Cummins has been doing, Columbus has been doing lots of architecture improvements as you can see across the street. There are lots of businesses moving in and lots of buildings going up so I think Columbus has definitely stayed ahead of the downfall that we had the last three or four years."

About the layoffs at Cummins:

"Yeah, I did hear that. I have friends that work at Cummins and their biggest thing, they say, is they do the forecasting and try and guess and with the global economy having a little bit of a downturn, sounds like they're doing a little bit of that, but hopefully that's something that's just a little blip but they've seemed to do a good job of staying ahead of the curve."

On his statewide concerns:

"The economy and jobs seem to be what I would say is the biggest area and getting businesses to come back to Indiana or stay in Indiana and not leave. Columbus doesn't have that huge of an issue with unemployment, but I know I've had friends whose parents have been laid off and that type of thing, so I'd say jobs and the economy still would stay up at the forefront.

"We like Columbus. We're growing. Hoosier Sporting Goods is growing. We've had a really good year. We were never hit with a huge...never had to lay anybody off, never had to cut anybody's hours and we're having a nice growth year, so hopefully things continue and we want to stay."

Decision 2012 coverage