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September 11, 2013 | 08:21 AM

With each economic update through the years, a couple words or short phrase is used to describe the outlook for the coming months or year. Usually, it was something like "more of the same" or, at best, "slow, steady growth ahead."

But not this year, as it seems the economy, both locally and nationally, is finally making sustained progress.

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Victor Swaminathan, president of Areva Pharmaceuticals Inc., at Thursday's Labor Day Economic Outlook at Horseshoe Southern Indiana in Bridgeport, passes around boxes of the three cancer drugs currently offered by Areva. Next year, the drugs will be distributed out of Areva's distribution center that is under construction near Lanesville. Photo by Ross Schulz (click for larger version)
The Chamber of Commerce of Harrison County had its Labor Day Economic Outlook last week at Horseshoe Southern Indiana and, for the first time in the program's seven-year history, the news was "surprisingly optimistic" as stated by Dr. Uric Dufrene, executive vice chancellor for academic affairs at Indiana University Southeast, who again led the economic discussion.

"We're coming back," Dufrene said of the local and national economy.

He said payroll totals are still $2 million behind pre-recession levels, but that's an improvement upon the $5 million it was behind. Also, unemployment numbers seem to be on the decrease, combined with an increase in job gains.

One reason the recovery has been so slow, he said, is that domestic demand has stayed weak relative to the months and years following previous recessions. The weak domestic demand has led to decline in payroll and Gross Domestic Product. But that was about the extent of the negative talk from Dufrene.

"2014 will be much better than '13," he said.

The construction sector of the economy has been coming back strong for some time, but the actual job gains in construction has just now started to gain some upward momentum. And, he said, automobile sales have fully recovered, reaching pre-recession levels.

Dufrene said to expect payrolls, as well as consumer spending, to continue the upper momentum trend.

He said the previous economic updates were becoming depressing with the bad, or slow, economic news.

"All-in-all, it's very favorable," he said of the country's economic outlook for next year.

When discussing the local economy, Dufrene said the natural beauty of Southern Indiana and Harrison County can't be understated.

"It's a nice place to live," he said.

Being a nice place to live can also help draw economic development, such as the Areva Pharmaceuticals Inc. distribution center that will soon call Lanesville home.

Areva president Victor Swaminathan also spoke at the event, detailing his company's product and goals for the future.

"We're very excited to come to Lanesville," he said. "It's going to be home for a very long time. You don't just move a drug company."

Areva has two cancer drugs on the market and is currently working on a third.

"Hopefully, there will be a robust line of many drugs to come," Swaminathan said.

Progress continues on the distribution center, located just east of the Lanesville interchange on the north side of Interstate 64.

"That's a great sight to pass by and see," he said.

He credited Darrell Voelker, the Harrison County Economic Development Corp. director, and Mark Shireman with bringing Areva to Lanesville.

"Lanesville wasn't even on our radar," Swaminathan said.

He said the business is very global-oriented and, as a partner with UPS, Lanesville makes for a perfect location with the nearby UPS hub in Louisville.

Indiana is also a strong pharmaceutical state, home to Eli Lily, Cook and others, he said.

"We are looking forward to being a good corporate citizen of Harrison County and bringing value to the community," he said.

Attendance was up for the event from last year, Chamber officials said.

Twitter: @rossschulz

Debby Broughton
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Corydon Democrat, 301 N. Capitol Ave., Corydon, IN 47112 1-812-738-2211 email