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Dufrene: Numbers indicate recovery on the upswing

Chamber looks to build county vision
Dufrene: Numbers indicate recovery on the upswing
Dufrene: Numbers indicate recovery on the upswing
Dr. Uric Dufrene gives a keynote address on the economic outlook in Harrison County for 2021 at the annual Chamber of Commerce of Harrison County luncheon Friday. Photo by Kaitlyn Clay
Kaitlyn Clay, Staff Writer, [email protected]

The Chamber of Commerce of Harrison County hosted its 86th annual meeting, this year as a luncheon rather than dinner, which included an economic outlook presentation from Dr. Uric Dufrene. It took place Friday at Caesars Southern Indiana.

Dufrene, who holds the Sanders Chair in Business at Indiana University Southeast and is a professor of finance, does an annual outlook for Southern Indiana and Greater Louisville each year. He had high hopes for the coming future for Harrison County, noting he believes firmly that the nation is on the upswing of the current recession based on numbers and data.

He came to this conclusion by tracking the gross domestic product, employment rates, quantity of job postings in Southern Indiana and consumer trends and by comparing the numbers to past recessions.

“This recession has been a bit different to track, however, as it is a virus-induced one and not a financial crisis to start,” Dufrene said.

One thing he believed strongly about as a positive for Harrison County is the way the region has diversified its economy since 2001.

One example he gave of this was noting that in 2001, around 26% of all jobs held by residents in the county were in manufacturing, and currently that is down to 15%.

According to Dufrene, this is good because it means other businesses are opening and the county isn’t relying on one industry to keep it running, which is a consistent indicator to a more successful economy.

Another trend he was excited to share with the audience, made up of local Harrison County business leaders, was that the area of Southern Indiana is second in net domestic migration in the state. This simply means that more people are moving to Southern Indiana than are moving out compared to other areas in the state. It was second to Indianapolis.

Overall, Dufrene believes the Southern Indiana/Greater Louisville area, and the nation, are climbing out of the hole of the recession. He did note that unemployment is usually a good indicator of how long a recession lasts.

During the Great Recession, which occurred around 2008, it took more than a year for unemployment claims to peak and about six years for them to return to normal, he said.

“While this recession has seen the largest spike in unemployment in our nation, it peaked in two weeks,” Dufrene said. “It was a very large spike, but the way that it has been trending upward in terms of recovering those claims is a positive for showing that the recession is nearing an end. I fully believe 2021 will be a good year for the area.”

After the keynote address, current Chamber of Commerce board chair Taylor Johnson and board chair-elect Steve Moore gave remarks about the Chamber’s progress this year and where they hope to see it go moving forward into 2021.

“It was a year unlike any other,” Johnson said. “In a time where our lives are being pulled in a hundred different directions, our board and members stayed engaged with the Chamber, which was amazing.”

He touched on the highlights of the past year, including the Chamber’s partnership with Mainstream Fiber Networks to continue reaching rural areas with high-speed internet, making the Chamber website a hub for business information regarding COVID-19 and their continuous work to improve the quality of life for residents in Harrison County.

“We really want to make Harrison County a better place to live, work and play,” Johnson said. “And I firmly believe that the Chamber led the county through this difficult time.”

Moore spoke about the future for the Chamber for 2021, noting his big focus is to build a county vision and overall brand that will encourage people to come to Harrison County.

Like Dufrene said, the region is currently at No. 2 in the state, and it seems that the Chamber plans to focus its attention on keeping it that way in the coming year.

“We need a county brand that will attract businesses, consumers, tourists and residents,” Moore said. “We also need it to be unique, specific and concise. That is where a large part of my focus will be for the coming year. I am optimistic for the year and am excited to work with everyone involved with the Chamber to see what we can accomplish.”

Lisa Long, president of the Chamber, said presentation of awards would take place at a later date.