Oct 18, 2014

Rock County’s GDP growth among best in nation

Excerpted from Janesville Gazette
By Jim Leute

The value of goods and services produced in Rock County in 2013 increased at a rate bettered only by a few other metro areas in the United States, further evidence that the area continues to bounce back from the Great Recession and the loss of its largest industry, local officials said.

Gross domestic product, a term typically applied to the economies of nations, also is tracked closer to home. In Rock County—technically known as the Janesville-Beloit Metropolitan Statistic Area—the gross domestic product jumped 6 percent last year. Of the nation’s 381 metropolitan areas, only 22 had bigger increases than Rock County, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.

“There’s no question when you look at these numbers, either from a state or national perspective, we’re leading the pack,” said James Otterstein, Rock County’s economic development manager. “Arguably, GDP is one of the strongest economic indicators that economists, observers and others look at to measure the overall health of an economy in a given geographical area.”


The government defines “real GDP” as the value of an area’s economic output adjusted for price changes such as inflation or deflation.

The bureau pegged the value of all goods and services produced in Rock County in 2013 at $5.4 billion.
Overall, real GDP increased in 292 of the nation’s 381 metropolitan areas in 2013.

Otterstein said Rock County’s GDP growth is important for two reasons.

“The first is that it’s incremental, as it should be,” he said, noting the county has posted GDP growth of at least 1.5 percent every year since 2009.

“The second is that it continues to move in the appropriate direction.”

From 2012 to 2013, Rock County experienced double-digit GDP growth in the agriculture, mining, construction and information sectors.

The largest gainer, however, was the local professional and business services sector, which increased a whopping 40 percent in 2013 and was bettered by just one other metro area in the country.

“It’s not just one company driving this train,” said John Beckord, president of Forward Janesville. “The economic diversity that we’ve talked about for years in this community has finally become a reality.”
Similar to many other metro areas, Rock County continues to transition to an economy dominated by services.

In 2004, 61 percent of the county’s private GDP came from service-producing industries.

The remaining 39 percent was generated by goods producers.

The gap between the two was even wider in 2013, when the split was 73 percent to 27 percent in favor of industries that produced services.

Otterstein said the recent GDP numbers complement other local economic indicators to show that Rock County’s economy is continually improving. Specifically, he points to:

  • Declining unemployment rates.
  • Residential real estate activity that is rising and in some cases matching levels before the Great Recession.
  • Significantly lower industrial vacancy rates that have triggered new and speculative construction
  • Growing retail sales that indicates disposal income and consumer confidence levels steadily rising.
  • Growing consumption of energy, which shows companies are producing more.

Read the full article.